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Member Research and Reports

George Mason: Study Finds Women with More Social Support Less Likely to Die

Women aged 50-79 who believed they had more social support were less likely to die in the next 10 years, according to the largest study on the impact of perceived social support on cardiovascular disease (CVD) and mortality.

Dr. Nancy Freeborne, adjunct professor in George Mason University College of Health and Human Services, led the study published in Menopause. Even after accounting for factors such as income, race, and education that could have influenced the results, they found that women reporting a very low level of social support had about a 20 person greater risk of death during the study compared to those reporting very high levels.

“Perceived functional social support can include whether a person believes they could get emotional support, advice, or just company from others to do fun things with,” explains Dr. Freeborne.

Dr. Freeborne and colleagues examined data on more than 90,000 postmenopausal women collected over more than 10 years by the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. While they anticipated women with higher perceived social support having a reduction in CVD due to prior studies on men, after removing those same confounding variables, they didn’t find such a relationship.

“Interestingly, prior studies that found a link between social support and CVD did not account for the effect of income, and for this study, it was the factor that most influenced that relationship,” explains Dr. Freeborne.

Read more about this research.

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