Social relationships and allostatic load in the MIDUS study.


OBJECTIVE This study examines how the social environment is related to allostatic load (AL), a multisystem index of biological risk. METHOD A national sample of adults (N = 949) aged 34-84 rated their relationships with spouse, family, and friends at 2 time points 10 years apart. At the second time point, participants completed a biological protocol in which indices of autonomic, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, cardiovascular, inflammatory, and metabolic function were obtained and used to create an AL summary score. Generalized estimating equations were used to examine the associations among 3 aspects of social relationships-social support, social negativity, and frequency of social contact-and AL. RESULTS Higher levels of spouse negativity, family negativity, friend contact, and network level contact were each associated with higher AL, and higher levels of spouse support were associated with lower AL, independent of age, sociodemographic factors, and health covariates. Tests for age interactions suggested that friend support and network support were each associated with higher AL among older adults, but at younger ages there appeared to be no association between friend support and AL and a negative association between network support and AL. For network negativity, there was a marginal interaction such that network negativity was associated with higher AL among younger adults but there was no association among older adults. CONCLUSIONS These findings demonstrate that structural and functional aspects of the social environment are associated with AL, and extend previous work by demonstrating that these associations vary based on the type of relationship assessed and by age.

DOI: 10.1037/a0034528

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@article{Brooks2014SocialRA, title={Social relationships and allostatic load in the MIDUS study.}, author={Kathryn Pauline Brooks and Tara L. Gruenewald and Arun S. Karlamangla and Peifung Hu and Brandon K. Koretz and Teresa Seeman}, journal={Health psychology : official journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association}, year={2014}, volume={33 11}, pages={1373-81} }