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Mental Health Among Older Adults in Japan: Do Sources of Social Support and Negative Interaction Make a Difference?

Publication Abstract

Okabayshi, H., Jersey Liang, and Neal Krause. 2004. "Mental Health Among Older Adults in Japan: Do Sources of Social Support and Negative Interaction Make a Difference?" Social Science & Medicine, 59(11): 2259-2270.

This study addresses the question of whether social support and interpersonal strain from different sources (i.e., spouse, children, and other relatives and friends) have differential impact on mental health. Data for this research came from a national probability sample of 2200 persons aged 60 and over in Japan. Structural equation models were evaluated within the context of two types of social networks: (a) persons who had a spouse and children (n=1299), and (b) those with children only (n=677). Between these two networks, the links among social support, negative relations, and mental health were contrasted. The effects of various sources of social support and negative interactions on mental health vary depending on the specific dimension of mental health as well as the nature of social networks. Among older Japanese who are married with children, social support from spouse has a greater association with positive well-being than social support from children and others. However, cognitive functioning is uncorrelated with all sources of positive and negative social exchanges. In contrast, among those without a spouse, only greater support from children is significantly correlated with higher positive well-being, less distress, and less cognitive impairment.

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