Social Support as a Moderator between Syndemics and Posttraumatic Stress among Women Experiencing Adversity


Substance Abuse, Violence, and AIDS/HIV (i.e., SAVA) tend to co-occur and the clustering of these adversities may be associated with increased psychopathology. Little is known about how these co-existing adversities affect the mental health of women. Further, few studies have examined protective factors that could weaken the relationship between these SAVA adversities and posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS). The current study assessed this relationship, as well as the moderating effect of social support. Participants included 178 women (M age = 35.23, SD = 8.44; 71.0% Black) who were living with HIV, experiencing intimate partner violence, and/or using illicit substances. Women were recruited from community organizations and completed hour-long interviews. Findings indicated that experiencing more than one SAVA was associated with greater PTSS (ß =.28; p =.036). Results also supported the moderating role of social support (F(2,168) = 3.41, p=.035, R2 =.31, f 2 =.45). Among women with higher levels of support, having one SAVA adversity was associated with lower PTSS. However, among women with lower levels of support, having one SAVA was associated with higher PTSS. Results not only underscore how co-occurring adversities exacerbate PTSS, but also highlight the central role of social support as a protective factor among women.

Publication Title

Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma