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An Overview Of Life Satisfaction Literatures Social Work Essay


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This chapter begins with literatures about life satisfaction and important personal and situational predictors of life satisfaction in older persons, then in order to provide a theoretical background for this study attempt to define the most important components of structural and functional support. The next portion will focus on the ways in which significant personal and situational characteristics might affect on structural and functional components. The focus will then shift to the effect of structural and functional components specifically on life satisfaction. And finally specific theories and models that have been proposed to explain the role of structural and functional components in the life satisfaction of older adults will be addressed.

Over the past few years, the world's population has continued on its remarkable transition from a state of high birth and death rates to one characterized by low birth and death rates. At the heart of this transition has been the growth in the number and proportion of older persons. Such a rapid, large, and ubiquitous growth has never been seen in the history of civilization (Norman & Henderson, 2003). when the older population will be nearly 2 billion, surpassing the population of children for the first time in human history (United Nations, 2006). For the first time in history, Asian populations and their governments are faced with increasing numbers of older adults, and this raise various social and economic issues, (Chan, 2005) specially issues concerning the life satisfaction (Wu & Rudkin, 2000).

2.1 Life Satisfaction

The use of different terms such as “psychological well-being”, “subjective well-being”, “life satisfaction”, “happiness” and “morale” for the same underlying construct has led to considerable confusion in the literature over exactly what is being measured, however, these concepts and their definitions are not identical, “all of them involve a psychological response by the individual to socio-environmental situation encountered in life and demonstrate no significant difference in meaning.”(Cloutterbuck, 1987).

Stock, Okun, and Benin (1988) defined subjective well-being as combining concepts together; mood, happiness, life satisfaction, and morale. Factors such as morale, life satisfaction and happiness are considered to be important in determining subjective well-being in the elderly (Kim, Hisata, Kai, & Lee, 2000). Subjective well-being is composed of two elements: cognitive and affective. Life satisfaction, the cognitive component of subjective well-being, refers to a global judgment of a life as a whole (Jin, 2001).Life satisfaction has also been defined in various ways, including happiness, adjustment, morale, physical health, subjective well-being, and the balance between aspirations and achievements (Nutt, 2001).

Life satisfaction has been defined two major ways in the literature: first as an objective entity, usually the quantity of social interactions; and second as an internal and subjective perception, the individuals' evaluation of their lives, the second approach is now more widely used (Miller, 1997). Life satisfaction is a very personal assessment, one must decide one's own life satisfaction criteria. Two individuals may share very similar lives, and one may find life satisfactory and the other may not (Quadhamer, 1999). Havighurst proposed that measuring life satisfaction as an “inner” assessment was a better measure of successful aging. Such a measure would accommodate individual differences in conceptions and values of growing older. Specifically, the individual whose personality most values an active life style could be as satisfied with his life as one who is more passive (Havighurst, 1961).

Distinction between life satisfaction and quality of life is not clear and the concepts are sometimes used interchangeably (Borg, Hallberg, & Blomqvist, 2006). Jeffres and Dobos (1995) proposed that quality of life consists of two distinct global concepts with underlying domains. The first concept, perceived quality of life or life satisfaction, is a consequence of satisfaction with the personal domains of life. These domains include satisfaction with family life, friends, health, partner and oneself. The second concept refers to quality of life in the broader social environment, environmental quality of life (Jeffres & Dobos, 1995). Environmental quality of life domains include satisfaction with housing, schools, health services, safety and security, roads and transport (Evans, 1994) . Personal quality of life is associated with quality of life in the broader social environment (Jeffres & Dobos, 1995), but the two domains are not identical (Fadda & Jiroґn, 1999). For example, some individuals rate their quality of life as very good whilst living under extremely difficult environmental conditions, whereas others rate their quality of life as poor even though their environmental conditions are excellent (Westaway, 2006).

2.1.1 Life Satisfaction in elderly

Among elders the predictors of life satisfaction were found to be perceived  level of activity (Osberg & McGinnis, 1987), age, gender (Fadda & Jiroґn, 1999; Kudo, Izumo, Kodama, Watanabe, Hatakeyama, Fukuoka, Kudo, Yaegashi, & Sasaki, 2007), satisfaction with family life (Medley, 1976), the availability of confidants (Strain & Chappell, 1982), subjective health rating (Downe-Wamboldt & Tamlyn, 1986; Gfellner, 1989; Spreitzer & Snyder, 1974) ,  physical health status (Joia, Ruiz, & Donalisio, 2007; Kudo et al., 2007; Bowling, 1990) , satisfaction with financial status and socio-economic status (Antonucci & Akiyama, 2007; Borg et al., 2006; Spreitzer & Snyder, 1974; Welsch, 2007), religious affiliation and private prayer (Korff, 2006; Markides, Levin, & Ray, 1987; Sagaza, 2004), marital status, and educational level (Subasi & Hayran, 2005), living environment (Subasi & Hayran, 2005; Rehdanz & Maddison, 2008), personal factors (Borg, Fagerstrцm, Balducci, Burholt, Ferring, Weber, Wenger, Gцran Holst, & Hallberg, 2008; Sanchez, Jr., 2006) , social support (Abu Bader, Rogers, & Barusch, 2003) and  sociopolitical capital (Abdallah, Thompson, & Marks, 2008).

Based on the International Study  in 1994 and 1999, indicates that the level of satisfaction of the elderly is generally lower in large cities, and lower for those who are in the first half of their 60s, who constitute single-person households, who are not in good health condition, who live in rented housing (Sagaza, 2004) another study showed that good health, high self-esteem, and the absence of worry were associated with life satisfaction (Borg et al., 2008).

Analyses of associations with life satisfaction in the study of elderly persons in Hong Kong showed significant associations between life satisfaction and a number of variables including age, education, marital status, self-rated financial situation, religious belief, living arrangement, social support, social network, self-rated health status, functional capacity, number of chronic illnesses and activity level. Multivariate analysis confirmed that the strongest predictors of life satisfaction were self-rated financial situation, activity level and social support (Chou & Chi, 1999). Borg et al., (2006) identified several factors of importance for life satisfaction among older people with reduced ability to perform daily activities: social contacts, health, activities, family, negatively losing family members (Borg et al., 2006). Recent work has identified a relationship between personality traits and life satisfaction (Thakral, 2006; Fogle, Huebner, & Laughlin, 2002). Among people with reduced ADL capacity in 6 European countries, it was found that personal factors, rather than environmental factors such as social or financial resources, influence life satisfaction (Borg et al., 2008).

Life satisfaction and Gender

Up to age 65, women tended to report higher rates of life satisfaction than men; however, after age 65 men were more likely than women to report a high degree of life satisfaction (Spreitzer & Snyder, 1974).  Significant predictors of life satisfaction were found in female respondents: age, financial strain and depression. In male respondents, the significant predictors of life satisfaction were education and financial strain (Chou & Chi, 1999). Medley found standard of living to be a more important predictor of life satisfaction in women, whereas satisfaction with health was more important to men (Medley, 1976).

Life satisfaction and Age

As age increases there is a slow decrease in life satisfaction (Melendez, Tomas, Oliver, & Navarro, 2005) Indeed, survey researchers have noted that older people show consistent increases in life satisfaction with age but a leveling off of more affective characteristics such as happiness (Antonucci & Akiyama, 2007).

Life satisfaction and Income

Previous studies have indicated that financial strain was consistently and negatively associated with life satisfaction and financial situation was a significant predictor of satisfaction (Chou & Chi, 1999; Chou & Chi, 1999) and satisfaction with financial status was a stronger predictor of life satisfaction than objective financial state (Spreitzer & Snyder, 1974).

Life satisfaction and Educational level

Education is found to have a significant effect on life satisfaction. Higher education attainment is associated with improved socioeconomic status, higher wage rates, and better health, all of which lead to better living standards (Bukenya, Gebremedin, & Schaeffeaer, 2003).

Life satisfaction and Ethnic

Barger, Donoho, & Wayment., (2009) evaluated racial/ethnic disparities in life satisfaction, and explored the relative contributions of SES, health status, and social relationships to life satisfaction among two very large, diverse probability samples of U.S. adults. That was the first major evaluation of Hispanic life satisfaction in the U.S. and is the largest U.S. population based life satisfaction study to date. They found that Blacks and Hispanics have lower life satisfaction than Whites, but controlling for SES and health status weakened these differences for Blacks and eliminated them for Hispanics. They also found a modest Hispanic benefit for being very satisfied in multivariable models. The consistently higher explained life satisfaction variance among Whites could represent substantive cultural variation in the types of support relevant to well-being judgments (Barger, Donoho, & Wayment, 2009).

Life satisfaction and marital status

Marital status was found to be positively related to life satisfaction by some investigators (Markides et al., 1987; Strain & Chappell, 1982) whereas others failed to show this relationship (Osberg & McGinnis, 1987). Marital status significantly affects satisfaction, with being single having a negative effect on both health and quality of life satisfaction. Proponents of social role explanations suggest that men derive greater benefits from marriage than women do because men's roles are less stressful and more gratifying compared to women (Bukenya et al., 2003).

Hansen et al., (2004) in a study with title: “Age, marital status and life satisfaction” found, having a partner (in the household) was strongly associated with higher levels of life satisfaction for both genders. The results showed no differential effect of having a partner by gender. However, for both genders, older cohorts without a partner had higher life satisfaction than their younger counterparts. No age-differential effect of having a partner was found. Interestingly, the effect of having a partner decreased with age for both genders, and significantly more so amongst women (Hansen, 2004).

Life satisfaction and Employment

Researchers examining employment status and life satisfaction have found a positive relation between these variables. Results of several studies have further suggested that persons 65 years of age and older who remain active in the labor force have higher levels of life satisfaction and morale than do retired persons in the same age cohort (Aquino, Russellc, Cutrona, & Altimaier, 1996).

Life satisfaction and Strata (rural/urban)

Evans., (2005) studied differences in the social supports of rural and urban elders to determine what those differences meant in terms of three markers of successful aging: activity level, life satisfaction, and depressive symptoms. Results showed that urban older adults reported more depressive symptoms as compared to rural older adults. Furthermore, subjective level of social support (perceived satisfaction with support) was positively correlated with life satisfaction and negatively correlated with depressive symptoms for both rural and urban older adults, however, there were no mediating effects of social support in the relationship between residence and levels of activity, life satisfaction, and depressive symptoms (Evans, 2005).

2.2 Functional and Structural components of support

In this section a broad overview of structural and functional components of support will be provide and each of these concept consider separately, because each has different properties that can potentially influence the life satisfaction.

2.2.1 Definitions:

The concept of social support has been a popular subject of research since the late 1970 and publications on social support increased almost geometrically from 1976 to 1981 (Phillips, Siu, Yeh, & Cheng, 2008).The concept of social support has been variously addressed in terms of social bonds, social contacts, and availability of confidants (Johnson, 1996; Seeman, Bruce, & McAvay, 1996) and early research frequently unclear the distinctions between four concepts: social relations, social network, social support, and social integration (Antonucci & Akiyama, 2007). social support and social support resources such as: social network, social interactions or social contacts, reported as related but distinct concepts (Seeman, Lusignolo, Albert, & Berkman, 2001).

Social support includes interpersonal communication and interaction, love and understanding, caring and concern, affection and companionship, financial assistance, and respect and acceptance (Antonucci & Akiyama, 2007; Loue & Sajatovic, 2008). Definitions of social support range from the actual supportive acts that are exchanged between individuals to a personality-like factor based in early interpersonal experiences that then influences how an individual views the likelihood that someone is supportive. The concept of social support has been investigated by researchers in anthropology, epidemiology, medicine, nursing, psychology, and sociology. Given the different backgrounds of researchers in these fields one can appreciate why reaching consensus for a definition of social support has been difficult (Rudkin, 2006).

There is a lack of general consensus on how social support should be specifically defined. One useful way to conceptualize social support is that it has both structural and functional aspects, qualitative (subjective) and quantitative (objective) aspects, and social network-based and support-based aspects (Phillips et al., 2008).

2.2.2Functional Component of Support

More recent studies of social support conceptualize it as the functions that are provided by social relationships. Although the question of what exactly is provided by supportive individuals varies between researchers, many agree that supportive individuals provide or make available what can be termed emotional support, informational support, tangible support, and belonging support .These functional aspects of social support are often highly related to each other and not easily separated in everyday life.

Emotional support, provides individuals with the belief that they are loved and cared for, emotional support involved such things  as giving advice, expressing affection, and providing morale support (Johnson, 1996). Emotional support is probably what most of us imagine when we think about a supportive individual. Emotional support is thought to be beneficial because it provides the recipient with a sense of acceptance and may strengthen one's self-esteem during life challenges (Loue & Sajatovic, 2008). Informational support can be a very powerful form of support to the extent that it provides useful direction. Such advice and guidance may also carry an emotional message, it is often the case that useful guidance from close friends can be seen as emotionally supportive in that the person cares enough to speak with you about important decisions (Cohen , Underwood , & Gottlieb , 2000). Appraisal supportincludes feedback given to individuals to help them in self-evaluation or in appraising situations. The intangible forms of support; emotional, informational, and appraisal support, can be difficult to disentangle (Rudkin, 2006).

Tangible support, is conceptualized as the assistance from others in one‘s daily functioning. Emotional social support contributed to positive affect, while tangible social support contributed to life satisfaction as well as reducing psychosomatic and emotional distress (Seeman et al., 2001). For older people tangible support may be as simple as providing a ride to the grocery store or mowing the lawn (Loue & Sajatovic, 2008), involves being able to help with everyday jobs around the house, providing financial assistance, and helping in the process of taking care of children (Johnson, 1996). Research findings regarding instrumental support are more mixed. Receipt of higher levels of instrumental support, specifically help with various tasks, has been associated with greater declines in physical functioning. More moderate levels of instrumental support appear to promote recovery and slow decline in functioning. In many studies, however, the direction of causation has not been clearly established (Rudkin, 2006). Belonging support is defined as the presence of others with whom to engage in social activities. An example of it would be a friend with whom to go shopping or to watch a basketball game. Belonging support may be beneficial because such positive social and leisure activities may enhance one's mood and sense of acceptance by others (Cohen  et al., 2000).

Social support functions are often intertwined those who provide tangible support may also be providing reassurance and emotional support. Furthermore, different network members provide different types of support. People tend to turn to their families for instrumental support, friends for emotional support, and during times of illness, health care workers for advice and aid (Loue & Sajatovic, 2008). Higher levels of emotional support, both perceived and received, improve outcomes, whereas the effects of instrumental support have been questionable. Older individuals who have more interaction with others and who report more available emotional support, experience fewer and slower declines in cognitive and physical functioning (Rudkin, 2006).

The effectiveness of any form of support will depend on the extent to which it meets the demands of the particular stressful event. For controllable stressful events, support such as informational or tangible is predicted to be more important. However, if the event is less controllable, then emotional or belonging support may serve to facilitate adjustment (Uchino, Cacioppo, & Kiecolt-Glaser, 1996). Functional component: perceived or received

Function components of support are usually organized along two dimensions: what support is perceived to be available (available support) and what support is actually received or provided (received support) by others (Cohen, 2004; Kafetsios  & Sideridis, 2006). These measures are not highly related and are often associated with different effects on well-being. What is perceived as available may or may not correspond to what is actually provided (Kahna, Hesslingb, & Russellc, 2003). Studies suggest that received support is not related to the perceived availability of support in a straightforward manner, one reason is that measures of available support are related to one's cognitive representation of social support, a person might perceive a high availability of support but decide not to utilize it because of concerns about network members' perception of their competence (Cohen  et al., 2000). when elderly individuals indicated that others were available to provide social support, they were more likely to report greater use of proactive coping (Greengalss, Fliksenbaum, & Eaton, 2006).

However, the benefits of social support are most strongly related to the perception that support is available. In other words, the highest levels of well-being are found among people who believe that they have a high level of social support, regardless of how much support they receive or how many people they know (Karademas, 2006; Kim et al., 2000; Phillips et al., 2008).National study of economically stressed older adults shows that those who believed that no one would come to their aid in the future had the greatest number of depressive symptoms (Loue & Sajatovic, 2008) and a higher level of support was reported in those who perceived the provider as supportive (Pierce et al., 1992). Buffer against stressful life events

Social support may act as a buffer against stressful life events and, thus, reduce exposure to the resultant cumulative pathological effects of stress. Alternatively, social support may be a constant, more generally available resource, across time and situations (Alan, Alison, Martha, Lawrence, & Ian, 2007; Antonucci & Akiyama, 2007).The two type of support are not mutually exclusive and may be viewed as complementary, there is evidence to support both types of effects. It should also be emphasized that the particular pathways or mechanisms by which social relationships affect well being likely depend upon the characteristics of the individual, his or her socioeconomic situation, the health outcome of interest, and the measure of social relationships (Rudkin, 2006).

Murrell and Norris (1984) postulated that social support may not only buffer individuals from stressful life events, but may actually be important for the general maintenance of psychological well-being and life satisfaction in old age, independent of adversity or stress (Tho , 2001). Social support can act as a buffer to soften the effects of negative life occurrences, this might explain why some people maintain good health when exposed to stressful life events which would be expected to have a negative effect on health (Bowung , Farquha , & Browne , 1991) and those older adults who are going through the loss of a loved one and have a strong social support system report a higher sense of life satisfaction and well-being (Gray , 2007). Coleman suggests that social relationships can act as a form of social insurance, provide communication and information networks, and create norms and sanctions that facilitate social action (Celia & Lenore, 2004).

2.2.3 Structural Component of Support

Support Network refers to objective characteristics of the network such as total network size (Janevic, Ajrouch, Merline, Akiyama, & Antonucci, 2000; Antonucci, Lansford, Akiyama, Smith, Baltes, Takahashi, Fuhrer, & Dartigues, 2002), the number of family members, age, sex, proximity, or frequency of contact with network members and living arrangements (Yoshida, Sauer, Tidwell, Skager, & Sorenson, 1997).

Social networks define as "webs of relationships that link the individual directly and indirectly to other people". Social networks include friends and family, as well as familiarity. The size of a social network depends on the person , some people have large families and numerous friends, whereas others may have smaller families and smaller friendship networks (Phillips, 1986; Phillips et al., 2008; Quadhamer, 1999). The Properties of the person and situation significantly influence the structure of the individual's network. Since one occupies a large number of roles, such as child, spouse, and parent, it is natural that this is a time when there are numerous members of the support network, and that they differ widely in age and gender (Antonucci, Akiyama, & Merline, 2001; Berke, 1991; Fiori, 2006). Formal social support

Formal social support is in many cases essential to an older adult's well-being because it provides practical support that becomes increasingly dependent as a person ages. Formal support comes from those individuals and institutions one depends upon for services and assistance such as health care providers, social workers, case managers, shopkeepers, delivery persons, and others in institutional settings (Loue & Sajatovic, 2008; Quadhamer, 1999). social support

There are several aspects of the structure of social networks that have received much attention in the literature on social relations and aging. Including family versus friend relationships, under the umbrella term of structural component is somewhat arbitrary, as this issue also touches on functional component. Family versus Friends

Informal Social Support systems are typically those supports such as family and friends and developed over a period of time through interactions with others (Nutt, 2001; Quadhamer, 1999). Informal support members are generally the primary caregivers to the older adult who needs assistance. Psychologically, social interactions with family and friends provide feedback to the individual regarding his/her social role and behavior (Rosenhand, 1999) and both of family and friends social support increase life satisfaction (Miller, 1997). The study of social relations must take into account that convoys of close friends and family members may be both pleasant and unpleasant, supportive and unsupportive (Antonucci & Akiyama, 2007).

Findings showed that, reliable alliance, or instrumental assistance, was more strongly related to well-being when provided by kin than by nonkin (Felton & Berry, 1992). Surveys of elderly people have documented that the most frequently mentioned helpers are wives followed by daughters, particularly in the case of widowed parents (Bowung  et al., 1991). Couples who do not have children may intentionally develop strong relationships with relatives such as nephews and nieces because these relatives serve as informal support to them when children would otherwise assume support (Loue & Sajatovic, 2008). 

Social support, especially from children and family members, had a significant positive effect on the life satisfaction of older adults when support was provided at a low level. However, excessive support was found to diminish the sense of well-being in the elderly as well as wear away their autonomy and independence (Silverstein & Bengtson, 1994). In fact, increasing contact with family members could be viewed by older adults as a sign of lost independence (Fiori, 2006).

Older people who are married are much less likely to need formal supports, such as home nurse care or Meals on Wheels, than unmarried people. Family relationships, under normal circumstances, make an important contribution to well-being (Antonucci & Akiyama, 2007) however, if the relationship is not supportive and positive, the opposite is true. In fact, intimate relationships that are not supportive, trusting, and loving have negative influences on the physical and mental health and overall well-being of the elderly. Additionally, the very old tend to have smaller circles of social support as many people have outlived spouses, other family members, friends, and sometimes even children (Loue & Sajatovic, 2008).

Although it is clear that families play important roles in the lives of older adults, providing sometimes extraordinary care giving efforts and instrumental help, friends are also invaluable resources. Indeed, research initially designed to examine the impact of family members alone often finds that the friends are mentioned as a significant support source (Antonucci & Akiyama, 2007).The need for friendships among the elderly is self-evident (Hanafy, 1992).When confronting loneliness or needing assistance with social issues, older adults prefer friendships to family Social Support ( specifically spouses and children). The reasons that older adults prefer friendships to family in cases of emotional support are primarily due to sense of continuity with the past that friends can provide (Loue & Sajatovic, 2008). Older people obtained a sense of emotional support from having intimate friendships with neighbors and friends and at least one child living close by with whom they have frequent contact (Loue & Sajatovic, 2008).Friendships have significant positive effects on the mental health of the elderly (Antonucci & Akiyama, 2007) and tend to be a matter of choice rather than birth. People choose friends because of shared interests and desire for contact and friendships share a form of reciprocity that may be absent in family relationships and reciprocity has a strong effect on the satisfaction level of seniors and their friendships (Loue & Sajatovic, 2008).

In one study of friendships among people over 60 year, 68% reported long-term friendship ties throughout their lives. There were some gender differences, with more than half the women reporting that they remained friends with a close friend from childhood or adolescence, whereas men showed high levels of continuity with close friendships developed at midlife. In one sample of people over 85 years old, it was found that more than half still had at least one close friend, and three-fourths were in weekly contact with people they considered their friends. Furthermore, almost half reported that they had made new friends after age 85, although the criteria for those friends tended to involve less expectation for intimacy or shared history than was common among younger people (Antonucci & Akiyama, 2007).

2.3 Functional and Structural Support in elderly

The findings from several studies suggest that the social network of elderly adultsmay differ from those of younger persons on a number of dimensions. In modem societies the networks of the aged are generally smaller than those of younger people. There is some controversy in the literature as to whether social networks of the aging decrease in size, frequency of contact with persons in the network, and degree of given and received support (Dorman, 2001).


It has been widely recognized that social networks among men and women differ in complex ways, particularly in relation to life stage (Antonucci et al., 2001). In terms of gender, women report providing more support, having more frequent contact with network members, being more satisfied with their friends, and having larger and more multifaceted social networks than do men (Fiori, Antonucci, & Cortina, 2006). Male got more support from family than did the female. Although there was no direct association between life satisfaction and support from family, there was a significant correlation between support from family and support from others for the males (Chih, Tsutomu, Hirronki, Yoshimi, Yoshiko, & Shin, 2002).

Women's generally have high sensitivity to poor-quality social relations that affects their mental and physical well-being. Additionally, an interesting finding suggests that although women often report more sources of support in their network than most men, the effect of larger numbers of close relationships is sometimes negative in that these women report being less happy (Antonucci & Akiyama, 2007). Although older men report fewer social ties than do older women, men appear to benefit more than women from the ties they have (Ajrouch, Blandon, & Antonucci, 2005). Support provided through the marital relationship is one likely explanation for this gender difference. Older women are more likely to be widowed and thus lacking the emotional support of a spouse. In addition, research has shown that men receive greater health benefits from marriage than do women (Rudkin, 2006).


Age differences in network structure may reflect differing roles and responsibilities according to life stage. Whereas middle-aged adults are more likely to experience multiple responsibilities related to family and work, those older in years often encounter a reduced number of competing, simultaneous demands and older age groups report older social networks than the youngest age group (Ajrouch et al., 2005).

Fiori, Smith, & Antonucci, (2007), took a pattern-centered and multidimensional approach to an examination of older adults' social networks. Six network types emerged in their study: diverse-supported (13%), family focused (19%), friend focused-supported (29%), friend focused-unsupported (15 %), restricted-nonfriends-unsatisfied (16%), and restricted-nonfamily-unsupported (9%). They found, restricted network types were more common among the oldest-old individuals (85 years of age or older) than among the young-old individuals (70-84 years of age), with 63% of the restricted-non friends-unsatisfied network type and 76% of the restricted-nonfamily-unsupported network type made up of the oldest-old individuals. This finding is consistent with increasing constraints experienced by the oldest-old, which are due at least in part to losses of close partners and age-peers .Interestingly, the largest percentage (40%) were in the friend-focused-supported type. This finding highlights the heterogeneity of social networks even into very old age (Fiori, Smith, & Antonucci, 2007).


Wu & Rudkin., (2000) found, contact with adult children in Malaysia does not differ significantly by SES for the Malayan and Indian respondents; however, among the Chinese, persons of lower SES report more frequent contact than do higher SES persons. In addition, they found that the association between daily contact and health status is not significant for any of the ethnic groups but negative effects of low SES on health status are significantly stronger for persons with lower levels of social contact, for both the Malays and the Chinese, the results for the Indian respondents do not show evidence of a buffering effect. In this study the stress-buffering hypothesis receives general support in the Malaysian context (Wu & Rudkin, 2000).


Educated people tend to have larger networks with larger proportions of non-kin involved (Dorman, 2001) Xian, Albert, & Yi-Li., (1998) founds, educational attainment would influence mortality largely through its effects on health status, social relationships, and health behaviors, and the relationship of these proximate factors to mortality. Although the overall level of social participation and emotional social support reported by older Taiwanese is quite high, there is a moderately positive and statistically significant relationship between these measures and education, which in turn, contributes indirectly to the mortality differentials by educational attainment. They report about 31 % of the indirect effect of education on mortality is accounted through social relationships.(Xian, Albert, & Yi-Li, 1998)


Almeida, Molnar, Kawachi, & Subramanian., (2009) with using data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods, explored the relationships between ethnicity/nativity status, socioeconomic status (SES) and perceived social support from family and friends. Their study provides evidence for the notion that Latinos in the USA, specifically foreign-born Mexicans, may rely on family ties for support more than do non-Latino whites and some evidence for this idea that disadvantaged minority groups may develop strong support networks among their coethnics and extended family as a way of coping with the poverty and discrimination they experience  (Almeida, Molnar, Kawachi, & Subramanian, 2009).

Marital status

Acock & Hurlbert., (1993) shown that network characteristics significantly affect on life satisfaction and they have shown that some of these effects vary across marital statuses. They found that network form and composition significantly affected on well-being. Further, they found that the effects of proportion kin and age heterogeneity varied by marital status. Thus, the effect of one of their density-related measures and one of their range-related measures was conditional upon marital status. The pattern of results was strikingly consistent across the two measures. They found that divorced and separated individuals benefitted from diverse networks, but not from dense, kin-centered networks, suggesting that, for them, instrumental assistance may be more important than socio-emotional aid. For never married individuals, on the other hand, participation in kin-centered networks, which are likely to offer expressive social support, seems more important than participation in diverse environments that might offer instrumental aid (Acock & Hurlbert, 1993).


Aquino et al., (1996) found elderly persons with some form of paid or volunteer employment would report higher levels of perceived social support, which would, in tum, lead to higher levels of life satisfaction. They found that the association between employment status and life satisfaction would be mediated by social support. Thus it

appears that engaging in volunteer activities increases the elderly persons' feelings of being supported by others, which in turn enhances life satisfaction. On the other hand, the association between whether the person was working at a paying job and life satisfaction was a direct one; that is, this relationship was not mediated by social support and third founding of them was directly relationship between social support and  life satisfaction (Aquino et al., 1996).

Strata (rural/urban)

The presence or absence of social support in the environment is a key element in the ability to adapt, or even survive, as well as to attain comfort and well-being (Collins, 1992). Researchers in one study found few differences in the social support patterns of urban and rural elders, with both groups reporting high levels of perceived support. however, another study found that rural elders were disadvantaged in a number of ways (Collins, 1992).The results of one study also showed that persons who lived in the old urban areas received more support than did their counter parts in the new towns and older persons who lived in public housing received more objective informal support than those who lived in private housing (Phillips et al., 2008).

Social support in rural elderly persons appeared more active in social visiting/chatting and they spent much time in visiting neighbours of friends (Su, Shen, & Wei, 2006). Wenger's comparisons showed that while the amount of family Contact was similar across the samples, the rural Welsh elderly appeared to be more satisfied with the amount of contact than the elderly living in urban areas. Wenger also reported that participation in voluntary organizations and other activities (indicators of community integration) was higher among elderly people in rural area in comparison with urban areas. The rural elderly also had more contact with their neighbours. Wenger argues that satisfaction with the level of family contacts is higher in rural communities because of greater involvement in community activities, resulting in a more autonomous self image. The analyses also indicated that number of relatives in the social network was more important than number of friends, again in relation to life satisfaction (Bowung  et al., 1991).

  Constança Paúl et al., (2003) studied two different groups of independent elderly living in rural versus urban Portuguese settings. The main objectives were to analyze the differences in autonomous behaviour, social relationships, psychological satisfaction, and self-perception of general health and quality of life between rural and urban residents. Their results showed that the two communities are different in their social network (larger for rural elderly) and both communities have somewhat negative perception of health and quality of life (Constanзa Paъl, Antуnio M.Fonseca, Ignбcio Martнn, & Joгo Amado, 2003).

2.4 Functional and Structural Support and Life Satisfaction

This review of literature examines how the Functional and Structural Supports in older adults are related to life satisfaction. Studies have not consistent results; some studies have found positive influences while others have found negative relationships.

Social support has been seen as an important determinant of psychological well-being and life satisfaction among older persons in many societies (Musick, 1997; Phillips et al., 2008), as important as exercise (Antonucci, Ajrouch, & Birditt, 2006). Among the 17 studies reviewed in one study, three predictors of life satisfaction appear with greatest frequency that one of them was active family and social interactions (Hanafy, 1992). Huang & Lin., (2002), noted that among the elderly in Taipei, social support was the most important predictor of life satisfaction, more powerful even than self reports of health (Huang & Lin, 2002). Revicki and Mitchell., (1990) has indicated that social support and instrumental support have direct effects on general measures of well-being, such as psychological distress and life satisfaction (Revicki & MitchelF, 1990).

Empirical work has demonstrated that greater social support among the elderly is associated with better physical health, improved life satisfaction, less loneliness, lower depression (Kahna et al., 2003), better psychological functioning (Greengalss et al., 2006; Karademas, 2006; Kim et al., 2000; Melchior, Berkman, Niedhammer, Chea, & Goldberg, 2003; Phillips et al., 2008), less mortality (Chih et al., 2002; Miller, 1998). Several studies establish that those who participated in their community and the larger society they had been in better mental health than their more isolated counterparts (Cohen  et al., 2000).

Alan et al., (2007) emphasized that social networks or support may contribute to successful aging, and in their study, social network/support factors accounted for 23% of the variance in satisfaction with life ratings (Alan et al., 2007) and in study of 212 persons, aged 80 years and above, including variables such as social support (contact with children, contact with siblings, contact with friends, number of close friends and satisfaction with friends), satisfaction with friends, correlated significantly with life satisfaction.  Apart from the significant protective effects of social support on both physical and mental health, support also seemed to influence the overall life satisfaction of the elderly (Borg et al., 2006).

There have been a series of studies over the past two decades that have confirmed the conclusion that quality of social support impacts life satisfaction. A meta-analysis revealed that quality of social support was a better predictor of life satisfaction than the quantity of relationships (Antonucci, Lansford, Schaberg, Smith, Baltes, Akiyama, Takahashi, Fuhrer, & Dartigues, 2001; Fiori, 2006; Gallagher & Truglio-Londrigan, 2004; Miller, 1997). Moreover, perceived quality of social relationships has also been found to be a stronger predictor of psychological wellbeing than objective measures of social relationships (Chou & Chi, 1999).There are both theoretical and empirical evidence to substantiate the claim that perceived quality of relations mediates the association between network type and well-being (Fiori et al., 2006; Fiori et al., 2006). The qualityof social relations may have a greater impact on well-being than do structural characteristics of social networks (Antonucci, 2001), and that support quality may vary by network type (Fiori et al., 2006; Litwin & Landau, 2000)

Amount and frequency of interaction with friends and neighbors have been found to be associated with life satisfaction among elderly people (O'connor, 1995; Riskey, 1991), whereas some studies suggest that the amount and frequency of contact were not sufficient to predict life satisfaction (Bowung  et al., 1991; Isii-Kuntz, 2009).

In a paper focuses on the importance and the effectiveness of various types of informal support for older persons' psychological well-being, the effects of objective and subjective measures of informal support was examine on psychological well-being of older occupants in different household circumstances.  results show that both objective and subjective measures of informal support were related to older persons' psychological well-being, but subjective measures of informal support (specifically satisfaction with support received from family members) were found to be more important predictors of psychological well-being (Phillips et al., 2008).

Saito et al., (2005) founds that receiving social support from the neighbourhood brought an improvement in the health status of older adults and confirmed the importance of social support for the well-being of older adults living alone (Saito, Sagawa, & Kanagawa, 2005) in addition others found reciprocity of social support have a positive relationship with life satisfaction among the older population (Sanchez, Jr., 2006). In a study researchers founds a direct link and evidence that volunteer positions increased  life satisfaction through social support mechanisms (Aquino et al., 1996) other studies founds that perceived accessibility of support predicted feelings of wellbeing among a sample of elderly people, reported that quality rather than quantity of social interaction was important in understanding adaptation to old age (Bowung  et al., 1991).

Not all social relationships are beneficial. Social ties can be linked to reduce well being when they are characterized by conflict, criticism, excessive demands, or dependency (Krause, 2001). Another study reported conflicting information between life satisfaction and interaction with social support systems in the elderly (Kafetsios  & Sideridis, 2006).Mancini et al., (1980) did not find a direct correlation between life satisfaction and interaction with others; however, they did find that there was a positive relationship between life satisfaction and the "amount of personal contact with friends among those who did not desire more contact"(Mancini, Quinn, Gavigan, & Franklin, 1980) and another study did not find a significant relationship between "life satisfaction and reciprocity of support with family members or friends" (Quadhamer, 1999).

2.5 Theoretical framework

Several theoretical frameworks have been developed to understand the social networks of older adults, including: the socioemotional selectivity theory (Carstensen, 1987), the social convoy model (Kahn & Antonucci, 1980), activity theory (Cummings & Henry, 1961), disengagement theory (Havighurst & Albrecht, 1953), the functional-specificity model (Weiss, 1974), the task-specific model (Litwak, 1985), hierarchical-compensatory model (Cantor, 1979), Some are especially relevant to age-related change (e.g., socioemotional selectivity theory; social convoy model), whereas others inform a focus on sources and types of support (e.g., hierarchical-compensatory model; task-specific model; functional-specificity model )(Gurung, Taylor, & Seeman, 2003).

In this section, literatures are discussed in relation to five theory and model of support: Socioemotional Selectivity Theory, hierarchical-compensatory model, task-specificity model, functional-specificity of relationships model and the convoy model. These theories and models have been selected because they have dominated discussions and research on social support in old age. Although these models were developed as alternative views of social support, they may prove to be complementary, depending on the nature and circumstances of social support.

2.5.1 Socioemotional Selectivity Theory

Carstensen and colleagues postulated socioemotional selectivity as a mechanism regulating age-associated changes in future time perspective (Carstensen & Charles, 1998; Carstensen, Isaacowitz, & Charles, 1999). This theory proposes two primary motivations for social interaction: emotional regulation and knowledge acquisition. The perception of future time perspective is assumed to determine the relative importance of these motivational objectives. An extended future time perspective (open ended) as it typically is in youth people are strongly motivated to pursue knowledge-related goals. They attempt to expand their prospective, gain knowledge, and pursue relationships. In contrast, when time is perceived as constrained, as it typically is in later life, people are motivated to pursue emotion-related goals, they regulate their social activities, intensify existing relationships , so that, they interact more with those individuals with whom they have positive interactions and decrease or avoid contact with people with whom they have conflict. In this manner, they can optimize feelings of well-being (Carstensen, Mikels, & Mather, 2006; Carstensen, Fung, & Charles, 2003; Lighthall & Mather, 2009).

Interestingly, Carstensen and her colleagues have shown that it is not traditional measure of age, namely time since birth (or chronological age), but rather limited time, that is responsible for a goal shift towards emotion regulation (Fiori, 2006). Because mortality places constraints on time, there are reliable age differences in time perspective. Adults reliably report the sense that time passes more and more quickly as they age. For many people, experiencing a chronic illness such as high blood pressure, or experiencing osteoarthritis for the first time, heightens awareness of one's own mortality (Charles & Carstensen, 1999). Similarly, the increasingly frequent deaths of friends or family members heighten awareness of one's own mortality. More benign events too remind us that time in life is not endless. Watching a child graduate from high school or seeing her marry also brings into consciousness the fact that time is passing (Carstensen et al., 2003).

Age is related to social network composition. Older people do have smaller social networks and interact less with others and appear to resist efforts by others to make new friends. Older adults give form to their social worlds to optimize emotionally meaningful and therefore satisfying experiences and to avoid potentially negative interchanges. Social relationships are vital for affective well-being among older adults, but the type of social interaction is the critical factor. Consequently, the networks of older people are composed primarily of well-known and emotionally close social partners and the decrease in size is due to a reduction in the most peripheral social partners (Carstensen et al., 2003).

This theory postulates that knowledge and emotion related goals are more likely to be achieved by interactions with different social partners. When emotional goals assume primacy, emotionally close social partners such as familiar and close interaction partners are preferred, because they are more likely to provide emotionally meaningful social experiences and feelings of social connectedness (Carstensen et al., 2003). Knowledge acquisition, in contrast, often requires interacting with people who are emotionally not very close, but who can give access to desired information and new social partners are most attractive, because their unfamiliarity increases the likelihood that an individual will gain new information (Carstensen et al., 2003).Longitudinal data reveal that the amount of time spent with acquaintances and close friends declines during adulthood, while time spent with close family members and one's sense of emotional closeness with these social partners increases with age (Carstensen, 1992).

The basic predictions of socioemotional selectivity theory have received empirical support in a variety of studies (Carstensen et al., 2003).Lansford, Sherman, and Antonucci., (1998) found support for Socioemotional Selectivity Theory across several large cohorts of representative older Americans. They found that, in general, older adults were more satisfied with their current number of friends than were younger adults, although the younger adults had more frequent contact with their network members (Lansford, Sherman, & Antonucci, 1998). Lang and Carstensen (1994) found that the positive effects of socioemotional selectivity on well-being are not as marked for older adults with a spouse and a child as for childless and unmarried older adults. Interestingly, childless, unmarried older adults, if they have a larger number of very close emotional ties in their networks, have similar levels of well-being to those with a spouse and a child (Lang & Carstensen, 1994).

2.5.2 Hierarchical-Compensatory Model

According to the hierarchical-compensatory model, the superiority of the relationship determines who provides support for the elderly, regardless of the type of the support or nature of the task. Ideally, the person most preferred by the older individual provides social support in a variety of areas. Cantor theorizes that family is the primary choice of support by the elder, followed by friends, neighbours and then formal organizations (Cantor, 1979). In fact this model proposes that children and other kin are the preferred providers of support even when they are not convenient (Esbaugh, 1997; Kempston, 1998). The premise behind this model is that "blood is thicker than water". When a support provider is absent, the tie next in the hierarchy serves as a substitute and provides the necessary support. If a spouse and other familial ties are absent, a less preferable choice, such as a friend, will provide these forms of support. Ties lower in the hierarchy are considered less reliable sources of support. One individual is assumed to be ideal for providing many different forms of support. As a result, if needed, a spouse can serve simultaneously as a companion while offering emotional and instrumental support. (Cantor, 1979).

A critique of this model is that it fails to consider that the possibility of specific support providers being better suited to perform specific tasks, a major premise of the task-specificity model. Thus, the many older individuals who do not have a spouse or proximate child are seen to select substitutes who are at best "second choices" in the hierarchy of preferred relationships (Connidis, 1994). This model offers a fairly static view of social support networks as it rejects the idea of multiple and variable support providers. The task-specificity model is one attempt to expand theory on social support networks, incorporating greater diversity by considering different tasks performed by different network members.

2.5.3 The Task-Specificity Model

The task-specific model proposed by Litwak (1985) proposes that people choose support providers based on the type of task or support rather than on the primacy of the relationship between the providers and the older recipients and emphasizes the match between the nature of a task (support) to be performed by a support provider and the characteristics of relationships in the social support network. According to this approach, some relationships are more appropriate sources of support for certain tasks than are others, for example, kin fulfill tasks involving long-term commitment and intimacy, neighbors perform tasks requiring speed of response, knowledge of resource, and geographical proximity, and friends deal with problems involving peer group status and similarity of experience and history. Primary groups can be characterized by the following dimensions: size, degree of proximity, length of commitment, nature of commitment, degree of common life style and age homogeneity. In turn, tasks vary in the extent to which each of these factors is significant (Litwak, 1985; Chen, 2001).

Primary groups "will most effectively handle those tasks that are consistent with their structure". Hence, family ties are good for some tasks, friends for others. For example, kin ties are more suited for nursing care, emotional support and financial assistance. Such situations involve long-term commitments, and do not necessarily require proximity, large network size or similar age relations, neighbours are best at tasks demanding immediate attention, Litwak asserts that "reporting break-ins in a house, emergency borrowing of small household items, accepting deliveries for neighbours who are not at home, administering emergency first aid, visually checking people daily " are all within the domain of neighbourly relations because they require proximity, short-term commitment and are available from a group larger than the marital dyad (Esbaugh, 1997).Friendship ties, provide companionship for free-time activity, as well as informational advice for everyday problems. "Where friendship primary groups do not exist, then other primary groups do not generally provide functional substitutes". However, in rare cases, if another primary group shares similar characteristics then a substitution can be made to perform the task and provide support. For example, a close friend can substitute for a neighbor for tasks requiring immediate attention.

Compare The task-specificity model differs from the hierarchical-compensatory model in that it focuses upon the characteristics of the tasks and of the support provider and is primarily concerned with the match between them. This model thus assumes that particular tasks are performed by certain individuals. Therefore, unlike the hierarchical compensatory model there is not the notion that some groups may in fact be preferred for all tasks. This model assumes that certain groups are best suited for certain tasks, when in fact they might not even be utilized by an individual or preferred for support (Litwak, 1985; Kempston, 1998).

2.5.4 The Functional-Specificity of Relationships Model

The notion of the superiority of familial support for all types of support is challenged by existing research. Simons (1983-84), using the 'functional specificity of relationships model, argues different relationships perform different functions for individuals to provide for various social needs, on the other words this model  emphasizes the uniqueness of functions associated with specific relationship types (Lang, 2004). These functions include attachment, that is, feelings of intimacy, peace, and security (normally provided by spouses and very close friends), social integration, a sense of belonging to a group with whom one shares common interests and social activities (provided by social activity groups), reliable alliance, knowing that one can count on receiving assistance in times of need (provided by kin), guidance,having relationships with persons who can provide knowledge, advice, and expertise, reassurance of worth, a sense of competence and esteem (e.g., from work colleagues), and opportunity for nurturance , being responsible for the care of others, such as one's children (Mancini & Blieszner, 1992; Fiori, 2006) For example, marital relationships typically serve a variety of functions such as intimacy, confiding, supportive exchange, and social companionship. Generally, such functions have a unique character for the marital couple and cannot be fulfilled in other role relationships (e.g. by children), following the loss of a close family member, transactions with distant relatives will be enhanced only with respect to a specific selection of functions.

Those without a spouse are more likely to rely on a friend as a confidant, over a sibling or child, Confidants develop through the reciprocity of disclosure and equality of status and power within relationships, qualities that friends often have, unlike adult children or siblings. As well, older individuals are more likely to receive emotional support, in particular, positive self-esteem, from friendship relationships rather than relationships with any family member. This model assumes that, through interaction with others, individuals are able to satisfy their "desires for security, intimacy and self-esteem”(Simons, 1983).

The functional-specificity of relationships model emphasizes the need for multiple relationships to satisfy the diversity of an individual's social needs. This model focuses more upon task and need specialisation, and is less concerned with which person within the social support network completes which task. For example, a spouse or a friend may satisfy the same needs for different individuals. Therefore, different members of the support network may be important for various individuals in satisfying individual needs; which relationship provides which support is contingent upon the nature of the relationship negotiated between the individuals. This model proposes that older persons attempt to satisfy various needs through their relationships with others (Simons, 1983).

Empirical results testing this model indicate that, among the elderly, a spouse or a child is the primary source for assistance and security, a spouse is the main source of intimacy, and participation in groups and organizations satisfies the desire for self-esteem. There may be alternative and equally good sources of support for those elderly who do not have such ties. For example, for those without a spouse, security and intimacy needs can be satisfied by confidant friends. In addition, this model does not suggest that those individuals who must rely on children rather than a spouse, or neighbours rather than kin, have inferior support networks (Connidis, 1994). In fact, where the original tie never existed it seems inappropr

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