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Abstract

The source and magnitude of perceived social support functions and structure were examined in relation to illness duration, gender, and presence or absence of spouses among 200 persons with multiple sclerosis. The associations between social support variables and a health index, ADL level of functioning, also were examined. Significant gender differences were shown for perceived availability of affect, affirmation, and aid functions. A significant change in the network property, average frequency of relationships, occurred over the chronic illness trajectory. Low to moderate correlations were observed between a number of activities of daily living and both perceived social support functions and network size, particularly for women. Implications for professional staff who provide health services for persons with MS are presented. Further study regarding lower levels of perceived social support in women than men and low levels of informational support in both men and women is suggested.