Social support networks and type of neurotic symptom among adults in British households

Background. Current knowledge about associations between psychosocial factors and nonpsychotic symptoms provide little information about their relationship to specific types of neurotic symptoms such as symptoms of fatigue, worry, phobic anxiety and obsessional symptoms. Method. The British National Survey of Psychiatric Morbidity was based on a cross-sectional random sample of 10 108 householders. Neurotic symptoms were established by lay interviewers using the revised fully structured Clinical Interview Schedule (CIS-R). Subjects were asked about perceived social support, the size of their close primary social network and sociodemographic attributes. To assess possible associations between specific types of neurotic symptoms and psychosocial risk factors multivariate Huber logistic models (a modified form of repeated measures design modelling) was used taking account of correlation between symptom types and sampling design including clustering. Results. After controlling for sociodemographic factors the risk of having a high total CIS-R score (>=12) was approximately doubled for both types of poor social functioning. Specific types of neurotic symptoms were associated both with a small primary group and with inadequate perceived social support. Depression, depressive ideas and panic symptoms had a higher prevalence in multivariate models. Poverty was associated with low support. Conclusions. Associations with deficiencies in social support and self-reported neurotic symptoms are better explained by symptom type and in particular by depression than by the total number of symptoms. If confirmed by longitudinal study findings this knowledge could be used to inform the development of interventions to improve social support in order to reduce specific neurotic symptom types.

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