Essay: Quality of Life the Impact of Social

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Quality of Life

The impact of social support on persons who are healthy both mentally and physically -- and those who are struggling with mental problems -- is profoundly important. This paper reviews the reasons why social support is so vitally important, and delves into the subject of age-related theories that help provide clarity for the human need to adapt to life at an advancing age. Moreover, the concept of child-parent bonding, gender roles and ethnicity issues -- and how they relate to social support resources -- will be covered.

Social Support for One's Quality of Life

A good test of how important social support is for people was the topic when China experienced a massive, 8.0 earthquake struck on May 12, 2008. The earthquake hit in southwest China, killing 69,227 people and injuring 374,643. The social support provided to survivors was defined in the Biomedical Central article as "…assistance and protection given to others, especially to individuals"; in this article, the authors sampled people from 11 shelters that were set up after the temblor, and a total of 1,617 people filled out and turned in the questionnaire (Ke, et al., 2010).

No doubt the folks living in shelters following the devastating earthquake were not enjoying a quality of life anywhere near those living comfortably in towns and cities where the ground was stable. But the research is pertinent because in an emergency there is almost always a sudden "outpouring of social support" from a number of sources (Ke, p. 2). In some cases the social support is offered without "…a careful examination of the appropriateness of such support," hence this survey is worthy because previous to this investigation the authors assert there has been hitherto a "paucity of research" that examines the relationship between social support and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) after an earthquake.

The authors believe that policymakers can benefit from knowing what social support is needed, what works and what doesn't work, and hence policymakers can develop effective strategies for future crises.

The results, somewhat predictable, are nonetheless valid in terms of the intent of this paper. The multivariate logistic regression analysis performed by Ke and colleagues shows that "…those with strong social support" (above and beyond the social support provided by the emergency crews with food supplies and blankets) were "more likely to have better quality of life" even living in a temporary shelter (Ke, p. 1). There was a discrepancy between "actual social support received and perceived social support available" -- and women were more likely to report "worse physical functioning" and "greater role limitations due to emotional problems" (Ke, p. 3). Single persons responding to the survey were "less likely to experience role limitations due to physical problems and bodily pain than married respondents" (Ke, p. 3).

Students and unemployed persons reported better health following the social support the Chinese government provided following the quake.

Meanwhile how important is the social support (SS) for patients suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and other conditions that are psychiatric in substance -- in terms of the quality of life (QOL) for those patients? An article in the International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation reports on a study of 83 patients struggling with one of the illnesses mentioned in the first sentence. It is no surprise that when controlled for gender, marital status, age, length of stay and residence location, the total social support given to these patients was "significantly related to total quality of life" and also SS was related to QOL "subcomponents of finance and self and home maintenance" (Sharir, et al., 2007, p. 1).

In terms of patient rehabilitation from illnesses the quality of life is known in the medical and healthcare community to be "indicative of the level of social functioning," Sharir explains. Whether it entails patients with psychological or other maladies, quality of life is that "…overall sense of well-being, comprised of both objective and subjective evaluations of physical, material, social and emotional well-being…" (Sharir, p. 2). It will come as no revelation that QOL is derived to a great extent from social contact, both for mentally ill patients and those whose functions are perfectly normal.

But for those who do suffer from mental illness, Sharir explains, social contact fulfills the very personal needs of mentally ill individuals for "affection" and it promotes "self-esteem."

Social Support and Theories of Aging

An article in the Center for Disease Control reports on a survey taken in Missouri in 2000; 3,112 respondents were involved in the survey. The survey involved those that were 60 years of age and over. The participants were asked questions that began with "How many days in the preceding 30 days was" and ended with several questions, for example a) "your physical health, which includes physical illness or injury, not good?" b) your mental health, which includes stress depression, and problems with emotions, not good?"

The results on average showed that when compared with men, women reported "more mentally unhealthy days" (2.6 versus 1.6 for men); and women had 3.9 worried, tense or anxious days compared with 2 days in the last 30 days for men. Without going through all the results, in terms of social support, older people with no close personal friends (think a lack of social support) reported far more physically unhealthy days, far more depressive symptoms and far more symptoms of anxiety and "fewer days with vitality" (CDC). The point that the report makes is there is an association between "perceived social support and health-related quality of life among older, community-dwelling adults" (CDC). The more social support that older people "perceive" (even if it isn't really there), the fewer "mentally unhealthy days" they have and the more "vitality days" they have (CDC).

Getting old seems simple enough; time passes, the body slowly deteriorates, and the person dies. Looking at it from the perspective of social aging theories, two will be discussed in this paper. The "Disengagement Theory" posits that the process of aging is simply a "gradual withdrawal between society and the older adult" (VickyRN, 2009). This process is universal and natural, the article explains, and basically it revolves around a reduction in social support. Elders are at once "freed from societal roles" and also at the same time they are left by themselves; this theory posits that social "equilibrium" is preserved in society and this in turn provides a "orderly means for the transfer" of capital, knowledge, and power from the older generation to the younger generation and the social system.

There are those who feel this theory is weak because many older people would like to stay engaged and receive social support as well as staying involved with society; indeed there is a sadness connected with a loss of social support for many elderly people as they end up in nursing homes where the only social support they can count on is other aged people and busy nurses passing out medications.

Another social theory is the "Activity Theory" which suggest that staying involved with society and continuing to receive social support is "pivotal to satisfaction in old age"; this is the exact opposite of the Disengagement Theory because instead of lauding the disengagement from society -- like the first theory presents -- the activity theory puts forward the notion that an older person can and should continue to act like a middle aged person, putting off the health-related problems of old age. This theory would powerfully call for continuing social support for the senior citizens to remain active and happy.

Parent-Child Bonding -- Social Support Aspects

First of all, parents can contribute to their own child's social support needs by preparing for the child to be born by "preparing their own bodies, minds, and spirits for pregnancy and birth" (ATLC). Questions to ask with reference to bonding before the child is born include, "How will I relate to a toddler, and later an adolescent, striving to develop a sense of self separate from me?" And once the child is born, the parent bonds by fully understanding that babies "…are always communicating feelings and needs," and when parents listen and respond, babies learn that "they are valued and their needs will be met" (ATLC). This, truly, is a perfect example of social support. Mothers should initiate breastfeeding "within an hour of birth" and mothers will bond fully with the infant when she responds forthwith to the baby's cues.

Gender roles in parent-child bonding: Naturally the mother is closer to her baby, but the father should have a "consistent, meaningful, and loving presence in a child's life," beginning at birth and carrying through (ATLC).

Ethnic/racial roles: No matter the tradition or culture the mother and father are linked to, it is universal and vital that strong nurturing and loving be a main part of the infant's life in the household. Of course a Spanish-speaking family will mean that the child will grow up speaking Spanish, but many American Latinos raise their children to be fully bilingual, which… [END OF PREVIEW]

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