Background: Limited research has focused on longitudinal interrelations between perceived social support, perceived stress, and depressive symptoms beyond the first postpartum months. This study tested an alternative primary hypothesis within the stress process model examining whether perceived stress mediated the association between perceived social support and depressive symptoms from 1 to 24 months postpartum. Secondary purposes examined whether these factors 1) changed from 1 to 24 months postpartum and 2) predicted depressive symptoms. Methods: Women (N = 1,316) in a longitudinal cohort study completed validated measures of perceived social support, perceived stress, and depressive symptoms at 1, 6, 12, 18, and 24 months postpartum via telephone interviews. Analyses examined changes in psychosocial factors (repeated measures analysis of variance) and the extent to which perceived social support and perceived stress predicted depressive symptoms and supported mediation (linear regression). Results: Perceived social support decreased, perceived stress increased, and depressive symptoms remained constant from 1 to 18 months, then increased at 24 months. Low perceived social support predicted 6-month depressive symptoms, whereas perceived stress predicted depressive symptoms at all time points. Perceived stress mediated the association between perceived social support and depressive symptoms across 24 months such that low perceived social support predicted perceived stress, which in turn predicted depressive symptoms. Conclusions: Intervention scientists may want to focus on strengthening perceived social support as a means to manage perceived stress in an effort to prevent a long-term trajectory of depression.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Health(social science)
- Obstetrics and Gynecology
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Maternity and Midwifery