Skip to main content Accessibility help

Social Support and the Outcome of Major Depression

  • Linda K. George (a1), Dan G. Blazer (a2), Dana C. Hughes (a3) and Nancy Fowler (a3)


One hundred and fifty middle-aged and elderly adults with a diagnosis of major depression were assessed initially as inpatients, and were reinterviewed 6–32 months later. Both size of social network and subjective social support were significant predictors of depressive symptoms at follow-up, with baseline depression scores and other predictors of outcome status statistically controlled. Subjective social support was most strongly associated with major depression; this effect was significantly stronger for middle-aged than older adults, and for men than women. Differences in the effects of marital status, size of social network, and subjective social support also suggest the importance of distinguishing between involvement in and quality of interpersonal relationships.


Corresponding author



Hide All
Alloway, R. & Bebbington, P. (1987) The buffer theory of social support – a review of the literature. Psychological Medicine, 17, 91108.
American Psychiatric Association (1980) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (3rd edn) (DSM–III). Washington, DC: APA.
Baldwin, R. C. & Jolley, D. J. (1986) The prognosis of depression in old age. British Journal of Psychiatry, 149, 574583.
Blazer, D. G., Hughes, D. & George, L. K. (1987) Stressful life events and the onset of a generalized anxiety syndrome. American Journal of Psychiatry, 144, 11781183.
Carney, M. W. P., Reynolds, E. H., & Sheffield, B. F. (1987) Prediction of outcome in depressive illness by the Newcastle Diagnosis Scale: its relationship with the unipolar/bipolar and DSM–III systems. British Journal of Psychiatry, 150, 4348.
Cohen, S. & Wills, T. A. (1985) Stress, social support, and the buffering hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 98, 310357.
Folstein, M. F., Folstein, S. E., & McHugh, P. R. (1975) “Mini-Mental State”: a practical method for grading the cognitive state of patients for the clinician. Journal of Psychiatry Research, 12, 189198.
Henderson, A. S. (1984) Interpreting the evidence on social support. Social Psychiatry, 19, 4952.
Henderson, A. S. & Moran, P. A. P. (1983) Social relationships during the onset and remission of neurotic symptoms: a prospective community study. British Journal of Psychiatry, 143, 467472.
Holahan, C. J. & Moos, R. H. (1981) Social support and psychological distress: a longitudinal analysis. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 90, 365370.
Hughes, D. C., Blazer, D. G., & George, L. K. (1988a) Age differences in life events: a multivariate controlled analysis. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 27, 207220.
Hughes, D. C., George, L. K., & Blazer, D. G. (1988b) Age differences in life event qualities: multivariate controlled analyses. Journal of Community Psychology, 16, 161174.
Keller, M. B. & Shapiro, R. W. (1981) Major depressive disorder: initial results from a one-year prospective naturalistic follow-up study. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 169, 761767.
Keller, M. B. Shapiro, R. W., Lavori, P. W., et al (1982) Recovery in major depressive disorder: analysis with the life table and regression models. Archives of General Psychiatry, 39, 905910.
Landerman, R., George, L. K., Campbell, R. T., et al (1989) Social support, stress, and depression: alternative models of the stress buffering hypothesis. American Journal of Community Psychology (in press).
Murphy, E. (1983) The prognosis of depression in old age. British Journal of Psychiatry, 142, 111119.
Pattison, E. M., Lleamas, R., & Hurd, G. (1979) Social network mediation of anxiety. Psychiatric Annals, 9, 5667.
Radloff, L. S. (1977) The CES-D scale: a self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1, 385401.
Robins, L. N., Helzer, J. E., Crouchan, J., et al (1981) National Institute of Mental Health Diagnostic Interview Schedule: its history, characteristics, and validity. Archives of General Psychiatry, 38, 381389.
Zimmerman, M., Coryell, W., & Pfohl, B. (1987) Prognostic validity of the dexamethasone suppression test: results of a six-month prospective follow-up. American Journal of Psychiatry, 144, 212214.


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed

Social Support and the Outcome of Major Depression

  • Linda K. George (a1), Dan G. Blazer (a2), Dana C. Hughes (a3) and Nancy Fowler (a3)
Submit a response


No eLetters have been published for this article.


Reply to: Submit a response

Your details

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *