Spirituality and Social Support as Coping Mechanisms Among Older Adult Inmates

By Ana Begovic-Juhant, Edward Collins, Karen Kopera-Frye and Janice Hughes.

Published by The International Journal of Aging and Society

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This research explored whether religiosity/spirituality and social support were being utilized as coping mechanisms among older inmates. Sixty-five inmates were surveyed (34 males, 31 females), ranging in age from 50 to 81 years; all were incarcerated five years or more. Participants were recruited from four different Ohio correctional facilities. Inmates completed a semi-structured questionnaire consisting of demographics and established measures of depression, along with open-ended questions related to health, family, religiosity/spirituality, and social support. Correlational analysis was conducted to examine if religiosity/spirituality and social support were associated with lower reported depressive symptomology. Results revealed that both inmates’ religiosity/spirituality and social support from fellow inmates were significantly and negatively related to depression (r = -.36, p = .01; r = -.31, p = .01, respectively). In addition, age was negatively related to depression (r = -.28, p = .02), suggesting that increasing age was associated with less depressive symptomology. According to Carstensen’s (1999) Socioemotional Theory, the older the individual is, the more likely that individual will seek supportive, meaningful, and sustaining relationships. In summary, supporting inmates’ religiosity/spirituality, while encouraging development of relationship building skills, may result in an increased quality of mental health for the aging inmate.

Keywords: Older Inmates, Depression, Religiosity/Spirituality, Social Support, Coping

The International Journal of Aging and Society, Volume 3, Issue 4, August 2014, pp.37-52. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 630.846KB).

Dr. Ana Begovic-Juhant

Assistant Professor, School of Health Sciences, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, OH, USA

Edward Collins

Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, USA

Dr. Karen Kopera-Frye

Biedenharn Endowed Chair in Gerontology, Professor of Gerontology, Institute of Gerontology, Department of Gerontology, University of Louisiana, West Monroe, Louisiana, USA

Dr. Karen Kopera-Frye received her Ph.D. in psychology (clinical and developmental) from Wayne State University (WSU). She earned her M.A., specialization in aging, and B.A. in psychology, also from WSU in Detroit, MI. She completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA. She holds the Joseph A. Biedenharn Endowed Chairship in Gerontology and is a professor in gerontology. Her areas of specialization include: working with ethnically diverse elders, primarily Native Americans and African Americans; health promotion among older adults; needs assessment and evaluation; substance abuse among older adults; older adult inmates; and rural health issues. Additionally, she is working on projects involving intergenerational intervention programming for children at risk for learning disabilities in elementary schools and truant teens.

Janice Hughes

Educator, Walton County Schools, Atlanta, GA, USA