Support for very old people in Sweden and Canada: the pitfalls of cross-cultural studies; same words, different concepts?

Authors

  • Baukje (Bo) Miedema PhD,

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    1. Dalhousie University Family Medicine Teaching Unit, Dr Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada
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  • Jennifer De Jong BA BSc

    1. Dalhousie University Family Medicine Teaching Unit, Dr Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada
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Baukje (Bo) Miedema Research Director Dalhousie University Family Medicine Teaching Unit Dr Everett Chalmers Hospital PO Box 9000 Fredericton New Brunswick Canada E3B 5N5 E-mail: bmiedema@health.nb.ca

Abstract

The Swedish and Canadian 80+ studies are collecting longitudinal data regarding medical, psychological and sociological aspects of the lives of people who are 80 years of age and older. A paper entitled ‘Informal and formal support from a multidisciplinary perspective: a Swedish follow-up between 80 and 82 years of age’, was based on the Swedish 80+ study. It examined psychosocial and health measures by support type (i.e. no support, and formal and informal support). Support is defined as care given by either friends and family (informal support) or healthcare professionals (formal support). The present paper compares participant characteristics between two groups of 80-year-olds from two study sites (i.e. Lund, Sweden, and Fredericton, NB, Canada), using the Swedish study site data. Only those participants who participated at both 80 and 82 years of age were included in the analyses. The intent of the descriptive analyses was to compare cross-culturally the two groups of participants and the level of support that they received. Between the two groups, the level of support received by the participants was rather dissimilar: Canadians reported receiving far more informal and formal support compared to Swedes. This finding was despite the fact that the Swedish state provides more funded support than that of Canada to its citizens. Therefore, the present authors speculate that the concept of support has a different meaning in Sweden than in Canada. This speculation raises concerns about cross-cultural studies, particularly when survey questions involve culturally ambiguous concepts such as the term ‘support’.

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