Much evidence suggests a strong causal association between social relationships and health and mortality risks. Research acknowledges social relationships as a “double-edged” phenomenon—social support favors longevity, while social strain fosters cumulative disadvantages in health. However, little research explores social relationship dynamics over the entire life course. Using four waves of HRS 2006-2018 data, I identify four group-based trajectories of perceived social support and social strain to examine the degree of exposure to social support and social strain and their effects on psychological and physical health among older populations in the U.S. The preliminary results show mixed effects on health selection and social causation. Specifically, people with persistently low or steadily decreasing perceived social support from spouses and children are less likely to have good self-rated health. However, people who perceive increased social support from their children are more likely to be in poor health. In contrast, persistently high and increased social strain from one’s spouse is associated with lower chances of good health; low social strain from children is less likely to be associated with poor health. Interestingly, people who perceive persistently high or increased social strain from family and friends are less likely to have poor health, which indicates a strong health selection effect. These findings suggest a differential effect of social support and social strain from close ties (spouse and children) compared to weaker ties (other relatives and friends).
Gross Hall 270