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A measurement of social support in epidemiological research: the social experiences checklist tested in a general population in The Netherlands.
  1. M A van Oostrom,
  2. M A Tijhuis,
  3. J C de Haes,
  4. R Tempelaar,
  5. D Kromhout
  1. Department of Chronic Disease and Environmental Epidemiology (CCM), National Institute of Public Health and Environmental Protection (RIVM), Bilthoven, The Netherlands.


    STUDY OBJECTIVE--This study aimed to examine in a general population the psychometric qualities of an instrument designed to measure positive and negative social experiences that had been developed in a clinical setting. DESIGN--The Netherlands monitoring project on cardiovascular disease risk factors, a large scale population based study (comprising 36,588 men and women aged 20 to 59 years) carried out in three Dutch towns (Amsterdam, Doetinchem, and Maastricht) offered the possibility of testing the strength of this instrument cross sectionally. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS--The social experiences checklist (SEC) which resulted from a research project on the quality of life of cancer patients was used. The independence of positive and negative experiences was confirmed. The reliability of both the positive and negative experiences dimension was good (Cronbach's alpha = 0.82 and 0.72 respectively). In accordance with the results of a study on cancer patients, the theoretically derived four dimensions in the experience of social support did not seem to be independent. The validity of the SEC was confirmed by Pearson correlations with neuroticism and coping styles. Neuroticism seemed to be negatively correlated with positive social experiences and was positively correlated with negative social experiences. The coping style of seeking information and direct action was positively correlated with positive social experiences. Coping by withdrawal was negatively correlated with negative social experiences. Women and highly educated people seemed to have more positive and fewer negative social experiences than men and people with less education. Younger people had more positive social experiences than older people. The oldest group in the study, those aged 50 to 59, reported fewer negative social experiences than any other age group. CONCLUSIONS--Similar results were found in a study of cancer patients. This underlines the usefulness of the instrument not only for cancer patients but also in survey research in a general population.

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