This study examines the effect of perceived social support on all-cause mortality at a 10-year follow-up as well as the plausible mediating factors in this association.
We measured perceived social support in 206 Finnish men and women aged 80 years old by using the Social Provision Scale, which consists of six dimensions: attachment, social integration, opportunity for nurturance, reassurance of worth, reliable alliance, and guidance.
By using a theoretical framework that divided perceived social support into assistance-related and non-assistance-related support, we found that the risk of death was almost 2.5 times higher in women in the lowest tertile of non-assistance-related social support (comprising infrequent experiences of reassurance of worth, emotional closeness, sense of belonging and opportunity for nurturance) than in women in the highest tertile. The risk remained strong even when we controlled for the indicators of baseline sociodemographics and psychological and physiological health and functioning. Among men, none of the perceived social support dimensions showed a significant association with mortality.
The results of this study present a challenge for society to find and develop new social innovations and interventions in order to promote a sense of emotional social support in older people, thereby contributing to their health and welfare.