Hoe kijken Nederlandse ouderen aan tegen de dood? De relatie tussen Waargenomen en Ontvangen sociale steun en doodsattituden.
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Previous studies concerning death attitudes in relation to social support point towards an increase in death acceptance and a decrease in death anxiety when an increase in social support is found. The present study investigates death attitudes of Dutch elderly and the influence of perceived and received social support on these attitudes, an important distinction within social support not made before in this kind of research. Based on previous studies and research pointing to the importance of perceived over received social support on health, two hypotheses have been formulated. The first hypothesis states that a high degree of social support would be related to a low degree of death anxiety and a high degree of death acceptance. The second hypothesis states that this relationship would be more substantial for perceived than for received social support. Gender differences in this relationship will also be investigated. As elderly lose friends of old age, less value may be attached to life, possibly decreasing death anxiety. For women, social contacts are usually more important than they are for men, but losing a partner is more deleterious for men. It is predicted that the amount of deaths, except for the partner, is related to less death anxiety for women than for men. Losing a partner is related to less death anxiety for men than for women. Among women, death of a partner will be related to less death anxiety when they have also lost many social contacts in comparison to having lost few social contacts. To investigate these hypotheses, a total of 288 participants, aged 65 to 98 have participated in an interview. No support for the three hypotheses was found. Results showed no differences in degree of death acceptance and anxiety, in relation to a high or low degree of perceived and received social support. There also appear no differences in death anxiety between men and women, regardless of having lost their partner and/or social contacts. Perhaps the certainty of dying, especially at old age, renders the amount of social support relatively unimportant in its influence on people’s death attitudes. The absence of a relationship between having lost a partner, social contacts and gender may be caused by other factors in life people still feel worth living for, so that death attitudes are not affected. Implications will be further discussed.