Depression, Social Support, and Quality of Life in Older Adults With Osteoarthritis


  • Carol E. Blixen,

    Corresponding author
    1. Carol E, Blixen, RN, PhD, Alpha Mu, Senior Nurse Researcher, Department of Nursing Research and Education
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  • Christopher Kippes

    1. Christopher Kippes, MS, Study Coordinator, Department of General Internal Medicine; both at The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, OH.
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  • Research was supported by funds from Sigma Theta Tau International and the American Nurses' Foundation and presented at the 49th annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, Washington, DC, November 1996.

Dr. Blixen, The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Department of Nursing Research P32, 9500 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44195. E-mail:



To develop an understanding of the quality of life of older adults with osteoarthritis (OA) with varying levels of depression and social supportas a basis for nursing interventions. Osteoarthritis in the United States is the number one chronic disease in late life and the major cause of disability in older adults. In addition to the functional disability and economic effect of OA, older people with this disease experience suffering, depression, and diminished quality of life.


For this cross-sectional survey, a convenience sample of 50 older adults with OA was recruited from two U.S. hospital-based arthritis clinics in northern Ohio for 3-months during 1995.


During face-to-face interviews, the Arthritis Impact Scales, Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale, Social Support Questionnaire, and Quality of Life Survey, were used to measure osteoarthritis severity, depression, informal social support, and quality of life.


Although few formal social support services were used, high levels of satisfaction from the subjects' large informal networks of family and friends were reported. In addition, satisfaction with subjects' quality of life was extremely high despite depression, co-morbid conditions, pain, and functional limitation.


Social support appeared to play an important role in moderating the effects of pain, functional limitation, and depression on these subjects' quality of life. Nurses who work with older adults are in a unique position to help them adjust to living with osteoarthritis by providing them the support needed to help them manage their disease.