Academic journal article ABNF Journal

Depression and Social Support in the Elderly Population: A Study of Rural South African Elders

Academic journal article ABNF Journal

Depression and Social Support in the Elderly Population: A Study of Rural South African Elders

Article excerpt

Abstract: Western societies tend to believe that poverty increases depression and that social support is very limited. This study was conducted in a rural South African community. Goals of the study were to determine how the elderly perceived social support and to assess their levels of depression. The study indicated that there was no significant difference in the level of depression using two different scales to determine depression. Age did not influence the amount of social support the elderly received from family, friends or the community.

Keywords: Depression, social support, South African, elderly.

Changes in family life related to social trends have definitely impacted the American family structure. According to American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)and Public Policy Institute (1998), life expectancy for the elderly has increased along with responsibility of the elderly population (Binstock, et al.). Many of the elderly are now rearing their own grandchildren. Such social trends can be contributed to teenage pregnancy, poverty, unemployment, alcohol and substance abuse, the HIV epidemic that are claiming more lives of the younger population on a daily basis (Smith and Beltran, 2000). These trends appear to be changing the family structure.

The aforementioned trends appear to have transcended into the continent of Africa as well. In South Africa, for example, the HIV/AIDS epidemic is responsible for claiming millions of young South Africans lives, leaving many children without their birth parents (Smith and Beltran, 2000). The elders have assumed the role of raising grandchildren. However, a greater impact may be with the fact that unemployment in South Africa is extremely high.

Since the end of Apartheid in South Africa in 1994, the black elderly have been given a slight chance for economic viability. Many black elderly are now receiving a pension from the government of 540 rands per month, which is equivalent to $67.50 U.S. dollars. However, many black South African elders are living in multigenerational homes with family members dependent on their pensions for survival. According to Dufalo (2000) the majorities of pension-receiving families are impoverished and live in rural areas headed by a grandparent due to the absence of the child's mother and/or father. While they are supporting their families, one may question who is supporting the elderly? The emotional and financial strains that support of the family places on the elderly population should be in question.

The purpose of this study is to describe how black South Africans elderly respondents reported on their perception of social support and levels of depression in one rural community. Kahn and Antonucci (1980) divide social support into three major groups: affection, affirmation and aid, each is represented intertwined or alone in the perceived social support. The major individuals or groups may define social support as family, friends, and persons connected to major life roles such as work or clergyman or professionals to semi professionals who can provide forms of support. Social support is commonly used to refer to the quality of a relationship or functional contents of the relationship (Berkman, 1985: Cohen and Wills, 1985). Berkman (1984) stated that it is difficult to identify sources of social support because there is a great possibility that social support is routinely viewed as a part of the lives of the elderly and that they go unnoticed and unreported.

Some of the characteristics of depression may have components or traits such as hopelessness, loneliness, low self worth and powerlessness. In this study, the Center for Epidemiology Studies Depression Scale (CES-D, Radloff, 1977) was utilized in determining depression in the elderly. Although Craig and Van Natta (1979) found that older adults were less likely to admit to depression in the CES-D. They also found that older adult usually denied somatic symptoms, such as poor appetite, sleeplessness, and trouble concentrating and feeling of depression. …

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