Investigators: Toni Antonucci, Hiroko S. Akiyama, Kira S. Birditt
Funding: National Institute on Aging 2008-2011 (1 R01 AG030569)
Medical advances have added years to life but not life to years, prompting Butler (1975; 2002) to ask the haunting question: Why Survive in America? It is proposed that social relations across the life span provide one important source of life quality. Empirical evidence indicates that social relations significantly contribute to health and well-being, especially in old age (National Research Council, 2001; Seeman & Crimmins, 2001). Despite this evidence, there is much less knowledge of how relationships influence health. The Convoy Model of Social Relations (Antonucci, 2001; Kahn & Antonucci, 1980) was developed to provide a useful heuristic framework to detail characteristics of social relations as well as those individual and situational factors which influence both their development and association with health. Data from a closed cohort longitudinal study have recently become available which are ideal for an extensive examination of the Convoy Model, recently modified to include stress and self-efficacy. A representative sample from the Detroit area was drawn in 1993 of people ages 8 to 93 (N=1703) and again in 2005 when they were aged 20 to 100 (N=1076). We propose four specific aims:
1. To examine the generalizeability of the original Convoy Model cross-sectionally (using Wave 2 data), across age cohorts (comparing Wave 1 and Wave 2), and longitudinally (predicting from Wave 1 to Wave 2) among older people and across the life span.
2. To investigate the modified Convoy Model by examining the role of stress and self-efficacy in the social relations/health association both cross-sectionally and longitudinally.
3. To consider the cross-national generalizeability of the Convoy Model by conducting parallel analyses using the Berlin Aging Study (BASE) data. This unique longitudinal study of people in Berlin from 70 years of age includes multiple waves and many parallel Convoy measures.
4. To extend the Convoy Model by examining the independent reports of core network members nominated by highly stressed older respondents. This will, for the first time, provide multiple perspectives concerning convoy functioning and well-being during stressful times.
In sum, the proposed research affords an unprecedented opportunity to examine how social relations affect health and well-being. At a time when government resources are dwindling, maximizing supportive convoys may be especially important for providing meaning, purpose, and well-being thus enhancing health as people age. Ultimately, this work should help add life to our older years and aid policy makers charged with developing laws for older people and the families who care about them.
Country of Focus: USA