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01-09-2015 | Uitgave 9/2015

Quality of Life Research 9/2015

Longitudinal trajectory patterns of social support: correlates and associated mental health in an Australian national cohort of young women

Quality of Life Research > Uitgave 9/2015
Libby Holden, Annette J. Dobson, Robert S. Ware, Richard Hockey, Christina Lee
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1007/​s11136-015-0946-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Although social support is a significant contributor to health and well-being, little is known about patterns of perceived social support over time in young adulthood. It is also unclear which personal characteristics are associated with different patterns, and whether there is an association between social support and mental health over time. We explore these issues in a large national cohort of young women.


We used six waves of longitudinal data spanning 16 years, from 10,369 women from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, initially aged 18–23. We used group-based trajectory modelling to identify patterns of social support across Surveys 2–6; multinomial logistic regression to identify socio-demographic and health-behaviour predictors at Survey 1 and correlates at Survey 6 for each trajectory group; and generalised linear mixed modelling to estimate mean levels of mental health over the trajectory period for each group, adjusted for confounders.


Four distinct trajectory groups of social support were identified: ‘High’ (58.5 %), ‘Decreasing’ (20.6 %), ‘Low’ (9.3 %), and ‘Increasing’ (11.6 %). Poor health and living outside metropolitan areas at both Surveys 1 and 6 were characteristics of women in all trajectory groups other than the ‘High’ group, as were early motherhood and being un-partnered at age 34–39. Other characteristics were specific to one or two trajectory groups. Patterns of mental health over time were consistent with patterns of social support.


Longitudinal trajectory patterns of social support are associated with mental health, health behaviours, and demographic factors even in early adulthood.

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