Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation





First Advisor

Dr. Debra Moser


Social support is the collection of tangible and intangible experiences that surround people as they cope with daily stressors. High quality social support is important among patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD) because it has positive effects on social, psychological and physical well-being, and those with good social support cope better with the travails of CVD. Although there are many studies of social support in CVD, little work has been done on the topic of discrepancies between desired and received social support in the context of gender.

The purpose of this dissertation was to determine if there are gender differences in the discrepancies between CVD patients’ desired and received social support. If gender differences exist in desired and received needs for social support, it is necessary to identify how these differences might affect rehospitalization and mortality rates. Three manuscripts are included in this dissertation: 1) a comprehensive review of the literature to examine gender differences in CVD patients’ perception of the concordance between desired and received social support and if gender differences in patients’ perception of concordance are associated with differences in health outcomes; 2) a secondary analysis of a cross-sectional observational study to determine whether there is a differential relationship between perceived social support and depression in African American and Caucasian patients with heart failure (HF), and 3) a longitudinal observational study to determine if the discrepancy between desired and received support for individuals hospitalized with an exacerbation of HF is associated all-cause event-free survival.

I identified a gap in the literature regarding the differences in received and desired levels of social support between genders that warrants further investigation. In the secondary analysis, I found that race moderates the relationship between perceived social support and depressive symptoms. Higher levels of perceived social support were associated with lower levels of depressive symptoms among Caucasians who had higher levels of depression. Among African Americans, depression levels were lower and were unaffected by level of social support. In the longitudinal observational study, 157 participants identified desired and received support upon enrollment. The participants had follow-up at one- and three-month post discharge intervals to determine if they had experienced rehospitalization or mortality during the period. In unadjusted and adjusted analyses neither gender nor social support congruency score group were predictive of all-cause event-free survival. This finding belies the common belief that too much support will smother the patient, causing cardiac invalidism. Despite this, further research is needed to continue to evaluate ongoing discrepancies between genders of desired and received support and their impact on health outcomes. Further research is also needed to establish accuracy in more appropriately matching social support received with the social support desired.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)