Social support for functional dependence, activity patterns, and chronic pain outcomes: a cross-lagged mediation panel study

Sónia F. Bernardes*, Tânia Brandão, Marta Osório de Matos, Alexandra Ferreira-Valente

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Received social support undermining engagement in life activities of individuals with chronic pain (e.g., solicitousness, support for functional dependence) is consistently correlated with worse physical functioning, pain severity, and disability. Whether such responses lead to worse pain outcomes (operant model of pain) or the latter lead to more supportive responses undermining activity engagement (social communication and empathy models of pain) is unknown, given the lack of cross-lagged panel studies. Furthermore, the mediating role of activity patterns in such relationships over time is entirely unclear. This study aimed to bridge these gaps. Method: This was a 3-month prospective study with three waves of data collection (T1–T3; 6-week lag in-between), including 130 older adults (71% women; Mage = 78.26) with musculoskeletal chronic pain attending day-care centers. At every time point, participants filled out self-report measures of staff social support for functional dependence, activity patterns, physical functioning, pain severity, and interference. Scales showed good/very good test–retest reliability (ICC =.74–.96) and internal consistency (all α..90). Results: Parsimonious cross-lagged panel mediation models showed the best fit (χ2/df, 2.44; CFI..96; GFI..93; RMSEA,.09). Bidirectional effects were found over time, but poorer pain outcomes at T1 (higher pain severity/interference, lower physical functioning) more consistently predicted higher social support for functional dependence than vice versa. Poorer pain outcomes (T1) predicted more avoidance/less overdoing (T3), via increased received support for functional dependence (T2). Conclusion: Further research on the cyclical relationships between the study variables across chronic pain trajectories is needed to harness the power of interpersonal relationships in future self-management interventions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth Psychology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Activity patterns
  • Chronic pain
  • Cross-lagged panel design
  • Older adults
  • Received social support


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