Methods: Data are from the nationally representative Americans' Changing Lives study, for the subgroup of older adults (ages 60 +) who participated in the baseline (1986; n=1,669) and two follow-up interviews in 1989 and 1994. Latent structural modeling (Bollen, 1989) is used in examining the mediating mechanisms among financial stress, social exchanges, and depressive symptoms. The analysis of gender differences in the structural relationships among them is conducted using the multiple group option in Mplus. Depressive symptoms are measured using an 11-item version of the CES-D scores (Radloff, 1977). Positive and negative exchanges are assessed by items asking about the quality of social interactions with friends and relatives. This study includes other important variables (e.g., age and education) to control for spurious effects.
Results: Results show that financial stress has lagged effects on depressive symptoms among older adults. Financial stress is significantly associated with negative exchanges among older men but not among older women. Negative exchanges have stronger effects on depressive symptoms than positive exchanges among both groups. On the other hand, positive exchanges are significantly related to depressive symptoms only among older women. Overall, negative exchanges wield stronger influence than positive exchanges in mediating the association between financial stress and depressive symptoms. Results of multigroup analysis reveal that there are reliable differences in the paths among the three factors between older men and women. Specifically, financial stress has stronger associations with both social exchanges and depressive symptoms among older men than older women. The mediating role of negative exchanges in the link between financial stress and depressive symptoms is also more salient among older men and older women.
Implications: Findings demonstrate the importance of considering negative exchanges as well as positive exchanges in developing social work interventions for the psychological well-being of older adults. The stronger associations of negative exchanges with both financial stress and depressive symptoms lead us to pay more attention to interventions that may ameliorate the negative aspects of social relations. The gender differences found in this study also highlight the importance of developing gender-specific interventions. For example, the stronger influences of financial stress among older men suggest we need to consider financial stress in developing social support interventions for older men.