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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Social identity reconstruction through education : a program for older women Hodgins, Grace M.


A substantial number of older women are adversely affected by mild to severe levels of depression. In this study the Social Health Outreach Program (SHOP), an educational intervention originally developed for middle-aged women, was modified and implemented with depressed and non-depressed older women. Through an educative process, participants learned ways to strengthen personal social networks as a means of augmenting social identity and overcoming depression. The purposes of the study were: 1) to measure the impact of SHOP on older women's levels of depression and demoralization, and on their social networks; 2) to determine factors either within or outside of SHOP that helped or hindered their progress during the program; and 3) to describe and analyze their experience of depression. A total of 15 women, aged 58 to 76, participated in a 20 session version of SHOP over a ten week period. Measures of depression and demoralization were obtained before, after and three months following the program; social networks measures were also obtained at three month follow-up. Participants' perceptions about their experience of depression, and about program factors and other concurrent aspects of life that helped or hindered their progress during the program, were obtained in post-program interviews. Outcomes validated SHOP'S approach and demonstrated that with slight modification the program is as effective with older women as it is with mid-life women. Participants who were depressed at pre-test showed a significant decline in depression scores; on measures of demoralization, changes were in the direction expected, although non-significant. Participants reported significant gains to their social networks in terms of people and groups added. Content analysis of interview data yielded 205 helping incidents and 130 hindering incidents that occurred during the program period; from these, 20 categories of factors that advanced participants' progress during the program, and 19 categories of factors that impeded their progress, were determined. This study supported the view that for many older women depression originates in their social environment. The findings validated SHOP'S educational program as a means of increasing social participation, re-constructing social identity and overcoming depression.

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