Social Support and Symptoms of Depression in Late Life: Bidirectional Associations over Time

Shira T. Turner, Sara Carmel, Norm O’Rourke, Victoria H. Raveis, Hava Tovel, Ella Cohn-Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social support functions as an effective buffer against depression, especially among older adults with limited social networks. For the current study, we examined longitudinal bidirectional associations between social support and depression among those 75+ years of age. We recruited and followed a sample of Israeli adults 75+ years of age (N = 824; M = 80.84; range 75–96 years). Structured interviews were conducted in the homes of participants at three annual points of measurement. Participants reported depressive symptoms and emotional and instrumental support received from friends and family. We examined a cross-lagged, longitudinal structural equation model (SEM) in which social support and depressive symptoms predict each other over time, covarying for previously reported social support and depressive symptoms. We found that both depressive symptoms and social support are largely consistent in late life. Depressive symptoms and social support reported at baseline predict levels reported 1 and 2 years thereafter. Cross-over effects emerged over time. Depressive symptoms predicted lower social support in future, and social support at baseline predicted depressive symptoms 2 years later. These findings suggest that associations between depressive symptoms and social support are bidirectional in late life. Further research is needed to replicate findings in other cultures and over longer periods, ideally until end of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number16065
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • depression
  • late life
  • social support
  • structural equation modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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