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Social Support and Physical Health

Social Support and Physical Health: Understanding the Health Consequences of Relationships

Bert N. Uchino
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Social Support and Physical Health
    Book Description:

    This state-of-the-art book examines the effect of social relationships on physical health. It surveys and assesses the research that shows not only that supportive relationships protect us from a multitude of mental health problems but also that the absence of supportive relationships increases the risk of dying from various diseases.Bert N. Uchino discusses the links between social support and mortality from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and HIV/AIDS. He investigates whether social support is more effective for some individuals and within certain cultures. After evaluating existing conceptual models linking social support to health outcomes, he offers his own broader perspective on the issue. And he suggests the implications for intervention and for future research in this area.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12798-0
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Series Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)

    Current Perspectives in Psychology presents the latest discoveries and developments across the spectrum of the psychological and behavioral sciences. The series explores such important topics as learning, intelligence, trauma, stress, brain development and behavior, anxiety, interpersonal relationships, education, child-rearing, divorce and marital discord, and child, adolescent, and adult development. Each book focuses on critical advances in research, theory, methods, and applications and is designed to be accessible and informative to nonspecialists and specialists alike.

    InSocial Support and Physical Health,Bert Uchino discusses the role of interpersonal relationships and health. Social support and our relations with others can have great...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. 1 Introduction and Historical Perspectives
    (pp. 1-8)

    The hit song by Gilbert O’Sullivan tells the story of a person who, like all of us, encounters life’s tribulations. He recalls such events as being left by a lover and his father’s death. His conclusion is always the same: alone again, naturally. This is indeed a tragedy, as the science of relationships suggests the importance of close ties for our happiness and to help in our deepest hour of need. In fact, when people are asked what is most important to them, the most common response is not their jobs or material possessions but their personal relationships (Berscheid, 1985)....

  6. 2 The Meaning and Measurement of Social Support
    (pp. 9-32)

    What exactly is a socially supportive person? A common answer would probably be “someone who is there for you.” Although this definition captures part of what is labeled social support, researchers have reason to believe that it is much more. Definitions of social support range from the actual supportive acts that are exchanged between individuals to a personality-like factor based in early interpersonal experiences that then influences how an individual views the likelihood that someone is supportive.

    Social support has been measured in numerous ways. One frequent criticism of social support research is the lack of consensus about a definition...

  7. 3 Theoretical Perspectives Linking Social Support to Health Outcomes
    (pp. 33-53)

    Social support has been defined and measured in a variety of ways. At a broad level there exists the distinction between structural and functional measures of support. Structural measures of support assess the existence or interconnection among social ties, whereas functional measures of support assess the specific functions that such relationships may serve. Within each of these broad measurement approaches are even more specific ways of assessing social support. Research on structural measures of support highlights the important distinction between voluntary and obligatory social ties as well as strong and weak ties. Studies examining functional measures of support suggest the...

  8. 4 Social Support and All-Cause Mortality
    (pp. 54-82)

    A number of different theoretical models link social support to health outcomes. These theoretical models are variants of two broad frameworks: stress-related and direct effect models. The main stress-related perspectives include the stress-buffering and stress-prevention models. Of these, the stress-buffering model of support is the most widely researched and predicts that social support should be beneficial primarily for individuals under high levels of life stress (Cohen and Wills, 1985). The direct effect models predict that social support should be generally beneficial across a range of life situations. Major variants of these direct effect models include identity theory and the social...

  9. 5 Social Support and Mortality from Specific Diseases
    (pp. 83-108)

    Social support appears to be a robust predictor of all-cause mortality. In chapter 4 I discussed my examination of more than eighty studies published during the past twenty-two years and concluded that both structural and functional measures of support predicted lower all-cause mortality rates. In particular, composite measures of social integration and participation in social activities were consistent predictors of lower mortality rates. Likewise, stress-buffering effects of support on mortality were evident, and research suggested that emotional support may be one particularly beneficial type of social support. The associations between social support and all-cause mortality were apparent even after considering...

  10. 6 Pathways Linking Social Support to Health Outcomes
    (pp. 109-144)

    In his book appropriately titledThe Broken Heart,James Lynch (1977) reviewed early laboratory and clinical evidence linking loneliness or a lack of social connections to cardiovascular disease. The analogy of a “broken heart” by James Lynch more than twenty-five years ago is on strong ground. In chapter 5, more recent research was reviewed suggesting that social support is a protective factor for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. These studies also suggest the potential role of social support on other diseases. Preliminary evidence found links between social support and cancer and HIV progression, although less research exists on these questions and...

  11. 7 Intervention Implications
    (pp. 145-169)

    The classic quote by Kurt Lewin, a prominent social psychologist, serves to remind us about the dynamic interplay between theory and practice. He strongly believed that a good theory could serve as the backbone of relevant interventions. He further argued that practical applications could serve as a stringent test of theory and thus inform researchers on the usefulness of their existing frameworks (Lewin, 1951). Of course, this premise needed to be balanced with the fact that attempts to apply our knowledge prematurely may result in ineffective interventions that decrease the credibility of the social sciences, or may even end up...

  12. 8 Future Directions and Conclusions
    (pp. 170-182)

    The research reviewed in this book provides strong evidence that social support predicts lower mortality rates. In chapter 4, evidence was reviewed that structural aspects of relationships, such as participation in group activities, and functional aspects of relationships, such as the availability of emotional support, show reliable associations with lower mortality. An examination of specific diseases in chapter 5 suggested that social support is associated with lower mortality from cardiovascular disease, the major cause of death in the United States and most industrialized societies. Preliminary evidence was also found for a role of social support in other leading causes of...

  13. References
    (pp. 183-214)
  14. Index
    (pp. 215-222)