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Social support in the case of illness: intergenerational solidarity

Background: Social support received through different forms of help from members of one's social network is an important element of coping with illness. In the case of illness, family members are the main providers of support, both within the same generation, but also, and increasingly so, between generations. This informal social support is related to socio-economic conditions of individuals: it is more common in lower economic and educational groups. Members of the middle generation, who help both the young and the old, are the main support providers. Also, female gender is the most significant predictor of the care burden. Withdrawing role of the welfare state in the postmodern society means shifting more responsibilities for care from the formal to informal sector. The aim of our study was to look into the characteristics of intergenerational support in illness in Slovenia. Methods: A cross-sectional study on personal support networks of the residents of Slovenia, sample size 5013, data collection by computerassisted telephone interviews, respondents above 18 years of age. Multiple Classification Analysis (MCA) was used for data analysis to find out how much the dependent variable deviated from the mean as a result of a given respondent characteristic while controlling for the effects of all others. Results: The analysis showed the proportion of respondents’ social network that would provide support in the case of illness and could be defined as intergenerational network. Intergenerational ties represent about 35 % of the whole support netork in illness. The most frequent receivers are the youngest group of respondents (18–29), followed by the 60+ age group. Women receive more help than men, especially those who are widows, living alone or living in multigenerational households. Intergenerational support is more frequent among the less educated respondents. Discussion: Our results comply with the findings in the literature, and are indicating that the actual trends in the changing structure and composition of the family, combined with less support from institutional health- and social care, is increasing the care burden of the informal carers within families. Conclussions: Health and social care policy and practice need awarness of the contextual factors of health care outcomes, taking into consideration social support networks’ functions.

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Zdravniski Vestnik-Slovenian Medical Journal
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Web of science - exported 12/7/2016
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