We hypothesize that a person who experiences retirement with a strong social support network will have greater life satisfaction than an individual who has weaker levels of support and fewer social ties. Although significant research has focused on the importance of life satisfaction as it relates to retirement, little research has been conducted measuring the level of social support and social integration as it relates to life satisfaction among retirees. Based on social capital theory, we empirically investigate the relationship between life satisfaction and social ties among retired adults.
Methods: This research consists of a cross-sectional, quantitative secondary data analysis using The University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study (HRS). The HRS is a panel study that began in 1992 and is completed every two years, representing all persons over 50 in the United States. This study utilizes psychosocial factors, which were added in the form of a self-administered questionnaire that was left with respondents upon the completion of an in-person Core Interview. It is called the Psychosocial Leave-Behind Participant Lifestyle Questionnaire (LBQ). This research consists of a quantitative analysis using two components of the HRS, the core survey and a psychosocial LBQ from 2006. To manipulate dyadic data structure, we analyze the data with Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM).
Results: Our data indicate that there is a significant relationship between social support and life satisfaction among retirees. We found that as levels of social support increase, life satisfaction increases. We separately analyze the effect size for four different types of social support, which are measured by the relationship type and include: spouse/partner, children, other family members, and friends. Our results indicate that three of the four types of social support are significant; they include: spouse, children, and friends. Of these three support types, spousal support has the largest effect size.
Conclusions and Implications: The implications of this study apply to social work practice, policy, and research. Gerontological social workers are in a key position to assist older adults increase their social ties and build stronger social networks through their relationships with their spouse, children and friends. We recommend that practitioners, educators and policy makers work to integrate content on social support into the curriculum for health care providers, incorporate assessment of social ties and social support into geriatric practice protocols, and consider social health equally as important an indicator of well-being as physical and mental health is.