Does race moderate social support and psychological distress among rural older adults?
Psychological distress (PD) among older adults is prevalent but undertreated, especially in minorities. Most of what is known about late-life PD in African Americans comes from studies comparing them to Caucasians, but results are contradictory, with some concluding that African Americans have more symptoms, and others demonstrating that differences disappear when sociodemographic factors are controlled. One consistent finding among all older adults is that greater social support is associated with decreased PD. African American cultural values of collectivism may act as a buffer for PD, potentially making race an important moderator of the relationship between social support and PD. Participants were aged 60 and older (N=100) and part of the Project to Enhance Aged Rural Living (PEARL). Multiple regression analyses controlling for health, income, education, and gender were conducted to determine whether race moderates the relationship between different types of social support and PD. Results showed that race moderated satisfaction with social support and PD, but Caucasians benefitted from increases in satisfaction more than African Americans. Emotional support, quality of social support, and physical health were significant negative predictors of PD. Being male also significantly predicted PD. More research including religion is needed to understand racial differences in social support and PD. Interventions for African Americans experiencing PD may be best designed by targeting males; focusing on improving emotional support, quality social support, and satisfaction with social support; and promoting physical health, perhaps by enlisting the church as middle-man.