The influence of social support on health and wellbeing among women with and without children

Melissa Graham


Social support is a significant determinant of health and well-being with poorer social support leading to poorer health outcomes. Despite this, little is known about the impact of social support on health and wellbeing among women without children or how this compares to women with children. Drawing on data from 683 women, who participated in both Waves 1 (1997) and 4 (2006) of the Negotiating the Life Course study, aged 28 to 66 years (at Wave 4), regression models were used to examine the relationship between health and wellbeing and social support by motherhood status (mother or childless). Dissatisfaction with the number of close friends was associated with poorer general health (rho = -0.23, p < 0.001). Women without children reported poorer general health than mothers even after controlling for potentially confounding variables (Exp(B) = 1.11, 95% CI 1.01 – 1.22). Not mothering has implications for women’s health. Further investigation of the type, role and quality of social support within kin and non-kin relationships is required to better understand the role of social support on health and if this differs between women with and without children.

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