Journal Article

Social support in later life: a study of three areas

J Phillips, M Bernard, C Phillipson and J Ogg

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 30, issue 6, pages 837-853
Published in print December 2000 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online December 2000 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Social support in later life: a study of three areas

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The research reported in this article examines elderly people's family and community networks in three urban areas of England: Bethnal Green, Wolverhampton and Woodford. These were the locations for a number of major studies in the 1940s and 1950s. Four decades on from the original studies, a social network approach was used to explore changes in the social relationships in these three areas. The research sought to assess whom older people identified as 'important' in their lives, and the role such people played in the provision and receipt of support. The study found that respondents do not mobilize the whole of their social network when looking for support. Instead, a section of the social network is drawn upon (mainly immediate family) to provide specific kinds of assistance. In addition, locally available friends offer complementary or alternative sources of help. This is a change from the earlier Wolverhampton and Bethnal Green studies, although it is consistent with the significance of friendship highlighted in the original study of Woodford. The paper also reports clear evidence of older people being active in reciprocal exchanges across their networks, particularly in respect of confiding in and talking to people about health issues but much less so in relation to instrumental support, such as help with household chores, transport and financial advice.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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