Social Support Associated With Native American Health Outcomes

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Simple acts of social support, like being given a ride to the doctor’s office, can be key in better health outcomes for middle-aged Native Americans.

Reporter Rachel Sun has more.

Washington State University researchers have found that social support for middle-aged Native Americans goes a long way in mitigating the physical effects of mental health problems.

The analysis pulled from data on nearly three thousand middle-aged Native Americans in the Southwest, Northern and Southern Great Plains. Participants enrolled between 2001 and 2003, and were followed through 2017.

Astrid Suchy-Dicey, lead author of the paper, says “instrumental” social support, which includes things like giving a friend a ride to the doctor’s office, was specifically found to decrease the association between depression and mortality. Other factors like isolation could exacerbate it.

Suchy-Dicey: “Social support lowered the risk of mortality. Depression increased the risk of mortality,” she said. “But I think personally, the really interesting finding was that social support can partially mediate that association between depression and mortality.”

Although similar findings have been published in research for other groups, they have not been described in Native American populations, Suchy-Dicey says.

Suchy-Dicey: “I think it’s important to study all people, because you never know when things are maybe a little different, because there’s a different environment, a different social context. “Just because something is intuitive, doesn’t really replace having data to support that intuition. So, you know, we wanted to do this study, to really fully understand whether, and to what degree these different associations might exist.”

I’m Rachel Sun.

This report is made possible by the Lewis-Clark Valley Healthcare Foundation in partnership with NWPB, the Lewiston Tribune, and the Moscow-Pullman Daily news.

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