Degree Type

Thesis

Date of Award

2020

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Human Development and Family Studies

Major

Human Development and Family Studies

First Advisor

Peter Martin

Abstract

Social support is an important factor for the well-being and health of individuals across the lifespan. For older adults, social support has been linked with life satisfaction and functional health. However, there is little information on how social support and social networks can predict the functional health and life satisfaction for oldest old adults. The present study utilized a recent framework by Pietromonaco and Collins (2017), which identified interconnected processes from social connection to outcomes of health and well-being, mediated by psychosocial, biological, and lifestyle pathways. This theoretical framework was comprehensive in its lens of interpersonal processes through intrapersonal mediators to long-term outcomes of health and well-being. As such, the present study incorporated components from each section of the model, specifically adjusted to pathways of importance for oldest old adults. This study aimed to examine the social connection influences of social support and social network size as they predict the psychological well-being variable of life satisfaction for oldest old adults, through the mediating component of functional health. The contextual variables of age, gender, and residence type were included in the path model to measures how they individually predict the social support and social network of oldest old adults, which could in-turn influence functional health and life satisfaction.

This study included 208 cognitively-intact oldest old adults from the Georgia Centenarian Study (GCS). Additionally, the subgroup of centenarians and near-centenarians (age 98+) in the sample were examined as they represent unique, exceptionally long-lived individuals (n = 137). Measures examined perceived social support (Cutrona Russell, & Rose, 1986), size of social network (Fillenbaum, 1988), activities of daily living (ADL) as functional health (Fillenbaum, 1988), and life satisfaction (Neugarten, Havighurst, & Tobin, 1961). Structural equation modeling in Mplus examined the path models from the contextual variables (age, gender, residence type) to social network and social support, to functional health, and finally life satisfaction. Additionally, mediation was examined with 1000 bootstrap samples in Mplus.

Results demonstrated that the hypothesized model resulted in a marginal fit. Based on plausible modification indices, three paths were added, including age and residence type to functional health, as well as from social support directly to life satisfaction, resulting in an acceptable model fit. Centenarians reported smaller social networks, lower social support, and lower functional health compared to the octogenarians in the sample, and individuals who lived in care facilities reported less social support and lower functional health (ADL) scores. Overall, three significant mediation paths were examined with social support for the total sample of oldest old adults. Social support significantly mediated the relationships between age and ADL, age and life satisfaction, and between social network size and life satisfaction. Thus, social support seems to be the mechanism through which age and social network size influence ADL and life satisfaction, respectively. Interestingly, there was no significant association between ADL and life satisfaction in this study, which could indicate that oldest old adults could report high life satisfaction in late life regardless of their level of functional health. For the centenarian subgroup, findings indicate that the more people in one’s social network, the greater their level of perceived social support. Overall, social support positively predicted life satisfaction for both the total group and for centenarians, confirming the hypothesis regarding the influence of social support for greater life satisfaction among oldest old adults. Future studies should continue to explore other factors from psychosocial, biological, and lifestyle pathways that influence the health and well-being of exceptionally long-lived adults.

DOI

https://doi.org/10.31274/etd-20200902-6

Copyright Owner

Rotem Arieli

Language

en

File Format

application/pdf

File Size

95 pages

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