Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Social Work

Major Professor

William Nugent

Committee Members

Stan L. Bowie, Robert E. Levey, David A. Patterson


Late-life depression is a significant public and geriatric mental health concern and one of the most prevalent and common emotional disorders for all older United States citizens. This study examined how relationships with close friends and close relatives affected depressive symptomatology among African American and White older adults and explored how health, social and religious factors modified that relationship. The sample consisted of participants from the New Haven, CT cohort of the population-based longitudinal study, The National Institute on Aging project entitled “The Established Populations for Epidemiologic Studies of the Elderly” [EPESE]. Respondents were ages 65-75 and older (mean age = 72.3), of which approximately 82% were White and other Non-African American, 19% all African American and 2.2% other than White (N = 2,812).

A linear multiple hierarchical regression analysis was conducted to test the association between the severity of depressive symptoms (Radloff, 1977; Engel and Schutt, 2005), close friendships and close relatives for community-dwelling older adults while controlling for demographic, health, social support and religious covariates. Data were analyzed using SPSS 16 for Windows with an assigned significance level of p = .05 (two-tailed).

The results of the analysis of the correlation coefficients, (ΔR² of .002, F (2, 2324) = 3.185, p = .042) suggested our hypothesis to be true in that the relationship between social support and depression depended upon race. However, we specified that the relationship between social support provided by family and friends would each be stronger for African Americans than Whites. Contrary to this, outcomes indicated the relationship provided by family members to be the same for both races while the relationship provided by friends to be stronger for Whites. These findings are substantial in fulfilling the request for evidence-based empirical research. Increased scientific research is needed in comprehending how specific social support and health-related factors might impact depressive symptomatology particularly among large samples of African American and White older adults.

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