Depression among poor older adults: The role of social support

Alex Yue Feng ZHU*, Kee Lee CHOU

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Depression should be investigated not only as a psychiatric symptom but also as a social issue. This research responds to recent calls and contributes to an understanding of the role played by social factors in the route toward the development of depressive symptoms.

Our aim was to elaborate on the impact of poverty on depressive symptoms among Hong Kong's older people. To do this, we examined the potential of social support to both mediate and moderate the effect of poverty on symptoms of depression.

Three waves of data were collected from a sample of Hong Kong's older adults (N = 563). Poverty was assessed as being either income-poor, expenditure-poor, asset-poor, or as experiencing material deprivation. Social support was measured in terms of instrumental support, financial support, and informational support.

When moderation and mediation were compared in the same model, only the role of moderation was identified as being significant. Instrumental support mitigated the effect of material deprivation on depression, while all three types of social support buffered the impact of expenditure-based poverty on depression.

Social support involves supplying coping resources to weaken the negative impacts of poverty rather than supplying social capital that the poor are deprived of. By its nature, the social support offered to the poor does not aim to provide them with the resources enjoyed by the rich, but to equip them with appropriate tools by which they can handle their own problems.
Original languageEnglish
Article number115293
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Early online date17 Aug 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

The work described in this paper was fully supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (Project No. EdUHK, 18612718).

The ethical approval was obtained from the Human Research Ethics
Committee (HREC) of The Education University of Hong Kong before the
data collection.


  • multidimensional poverty
  • social support
  • depression
  • Hong Kong
  • older people


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