Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between social support and mortality among older persons with diabetes and the pathways by which social support affects diabetes survival.
Methods: Using data from the Longitudinal Study of Aging cohort 2 baseline (1994) and follow-up (1997-1998 and 1999-2000 surveys), the authors identified 1431 persons aged >or=70 years with diabetes, among whom 387 deaths occurred. Social support was measured by an index with regard to participants' connection with relatives, friends, neighbors, social events, church, and senior centers. Regression analysis was used to find the pathway, and survival analysis was used to find the relationship between social support and mortality.
Results: Compared to people with a low level of social support, the risk of death is 41% lower among people with medium levels of support (hazards ratio = 0.59, 0.39-0.91) and 55% lower among those with the highest levels of support (hazards ratio = 0.45, 0.21-0.98). Eight of the 11 regression models demonstrated that the effect of social support on mortality was mediated by both physical and mental health status.
Conclusions: Social support is strongly associated with mortality. Based on findings from this study, social support should be considered an important target for intervention to reduce mortality risk among older adults with diabetes.