The impact of social support on life satisfaction among older adults in Germany with particular focus on cumulative vulnerability

Frank Micheel, Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB)
Volker Cihlar, Federal Institute for Population Research, Germany
Andreas Mergenthaler, Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB)

Objective: Vulnerability in older adulthood occurs in several life domains. Cumulative vulnerability (indicated by a low socioeconomic status (SES) and poor health), however, has been insufficiently studied so far. This presentation focusses on social support as a protective factor, which might buffer the negative effects of financial and health-related vulnerability on life satisfaction. Data/methods: Empirical analyses are based on the fourth wave of the survey “German Health Update” (GEDA 2014/2015-EHIS, N = 24,016). The analytic sample is limited to persons aged 65 years or older. Respondents with a low SES and (very) poor subjective health (vulnerable group; nvul = 136) and persons with a medium or high SES and medium or (very) good subjective health (non-vulnerable group; nnvul = 4,906) define the study groups. Multiple linear regression models examine the associations of social support, self-efficacy, gender, marital status and depressive symptoms with life satisfaction in both groups. Findings: Social support is a positive predictor of life satisfaction in both groups. However, the effect is substantially stronger in the vulnerable group. Vulnerable respondents who experience strong social support show a more than doubled effect on life satisfaction compared to poor social support than the non-vulnerable group.

Keywords: Older adults, Health and morbidity, Social network methods, Inequality

See paper.

  Presented in Session 187. Wellbeing and Mental Health Outcomes: Measurements and Determinants