Influence of the Source of Social Support and Size of Social Network on All-Cause Mortality

Mayo Clin Proc. 2015 Jul;90(7):895-902. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2015.04.007. Epub 2015 Jun 6.


Objective: To examine associations between relative, friend, and partner support, as well as size and source of weekly social network, and mortality risk in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study.

Patients and methods: In a mail-back survey completed between January 1, 1990, and December 31, 1990, adult participants in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study (N=12,709) answered questions on whether they received social support from relatives, friends, and spouse/partner (yes or no for each) and on the number of friends and relatives they had contact with at least once per week. Participants were followed until December 31, 2003, or until the date of death. Cox proportional hazards regression analyses evaluated the strength of the associations, controlling for covariates.

Results: Participants (3220 [25%] women) averaged 53.0 ± 11.3 years of age at baseline. During a median follow-up of 13.5 years, 1139 deaths occurred. Receiving social support from relatives reduced mortality risk by 19% (hazard ratio [HR], 0.81; 95% CI, 0.68-0.95). Receiving spousal/partner support also reduced mortality risk by 19% (HR, 0.81; 95% CI, 0.66-0.99). Receiving social support from friends was not associated with mortality risk (HR, 0.90; 95% CI, 0.75-1.09); however, participants reporting social contact with 6 or 7 friends on a weekly basis had a 24% lower mortality risk than did those in contact with 0 or 1 friend (HR, 0.76; 95% CI, 0.58-0.98). Contact with 2 to 5 or 8 or more friends was not associated with mortality risk, nor was the number of weekly contacts with relatives.

Conclusion: Receiving social support from one's spouse/partner and relatives and maintaining weekly social interaction with 6 to 7 friends reduced mortality risk. Such data may inform interventions to improve long-term survival.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality*
  • Cause of Death / trends
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Support*
  • Texas / epidemiology
  • Young Adult