Mental Health among Older Adults with Caregiving Needs: The Role of Social Networks

Publication Abstract

Tang, Fengyan, Heejung Jang, Elizabeth A. Mulvaney, Jane Seoyoon Lee, Donald Musa, and Scott Beach. Forthcoming. "Mental Health among Older Adults with Caregiving Needs: The Role of Social Networks." Social Work Research.

A major challenge facing an aging society is the increased caregiving needs among community-dwelling older adults with chronic conditions. Reliance on social relations may help address caregiving needs and maintain older adults' mental well-being. This study examines the roles of different aspects of social relations-social network size, social support, and service use-in the association between caregiving needs and mental health status (MHS). Using a sample of adults age 55 and over in an urban setting, authors tested the direct, mediation, and moderation effects models of social relations. Structural equation modeling was applied and latent variables of caregiving needs, MHS, and social network size were identified. Results showed that caregiving needs and informal social support (that is, network size, positive support, and negative strain) were directly related to MHS and that informal social support partially mediated the negative effect of caregiving needs on MHS; by contrast, service use moderated the association, indicating that those with caregiving needs who used more services were in better MHS than their counterparts with less service use. Findings point to the importance of social work interventions aimed at improving social relations and enhancing awareness and access to social services.


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