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Content loaded within last 14 days Mapping Social Support Sources for Rural Patients with Chronic Illness

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Objective: In this study, we evaluated social support sources for rural residents with chronic conditions and examined associations between support sources and self-reported health status. Methods: Adults in rural zip codes across the United States (N = 183; 48.6% female) participated in an online survey. Chronic disease status was determined through participant self-report of prior medical diagnoses. Support sources were elicited using scenarios that require illness assistance or emotional support. Self-rated physical and mental health were measured using 5-point Likert scales. Chi-square tests examined gender differences in preferred sources of social support. Ordinal logistic regressions assessed predictors of self-rated health status, including support source preferences. Results: Family and friends were found to be primary sources of social support for rural residents managing illness. Women tended to rely more heavily on close family members whereas men were open to more diverse sources. Gender differences were statistically significant (??2(4) = 20.66, p < .001). Those relying on close friends rather than family when sick also reported better physical health (B = 1.79, Wald = 4.91, p = .02). Conclusion: Findings indicate informal social ties are central for the health of rural populations. Gender differences in help-seeking patterns may necessitate tailored chronic disease interventions. Fostering community linkages and leveraging natural supports will be vital for addressing rural health disparities.


Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Health Behavior, School of Public Health, Texas A&M University 2: Department of Population Health Sciences, Geisinger 3: Department of Health Policy and Administration, College of Health and Human Development, Penn State University

Publication date: April 1, 2024

This article was made available online on May 25, 2024 as a Fast Track article with title: "Mapping Social Support Sources for Rural Patients with Chronic Illness".

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  • Health Behavior and Policy Review is a rigorously peer-reviewed scholarly bi-monthly publication that seeks manuscripts on health behavior or policy topics that represent original research, including papers that examine the development, advocacy, implementation, or evaluation of policies around specific health issues. The Review especially welcomes papers that tie together health behavior and policy recommendations. Articles are available through subscription or can be ordered individually from the Health Behavior and Policy Review site.
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