Social relationships and depressive symptoms among older adults in Southern Brazil

Marilia Ramos, Janet Wilmoth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Objectives. This research tests hypotheses from equity theory and social integration theory regarding the effect of social relationships on depressive symptoms. Methods. The data are based on a representative sample of people aged 60 and older from southern Brazil. The baseline sample consists of 871 subjects interviewed in 1995. Among those baseline subjects, 551 responded in 1999. Cross-sectional and longitudinal multivariate regression models estimate the effect of two dimensions of social relationships (i.e., social exchanges and social integration) on depressive symptoms, controlling for demographic, socioeconomic, and health characteristics. Results. The results indicate that unbalanced exchange increases depressive symptoms, and social integration decreases depressive symptoms. Specifically, older Brazilians who overbenefit or underbenefit from exchanges with relatives have more depressive symptoms than those with balanced exchanges. In addition, depressive symptoms are lower when an older adult who is receiving support is able to reciprocate. More intensive exchanges with relatives, being married, and satisfaction with family relationships decrease depressive symptoms, whereas living alone increases depressive symptoms. Discussion. The results highlight the relevance of social relationships to depressive symptoms among older Brazilians. In addition, the results indicate there is a nonlinear relationship between exchange balance and depressive symptoms in this population. The implications for policy are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S253-S261
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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