Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 381–406 | Cite as

The health-related functions of social support

  • Catherine Schaefer
  • James C. Coyne
  • Richard S. Lazarus
Article

Abstract

Social support research has been hampered by a lack of clarity both in the definitions of social support and in the conceptualization of its effects on health outcomes. The present study compared social network size and three types of perceived social support—tangible, emotional, and informational —in relation to stressful life events, psychological symptoms and morale, and physical health status in a sample of 100 persons 45–64 years old. Social network size was empirically separable from, though correlated with, perceived social support and had a weaker overall relationship to outcomes than did support. Low tangible support and emotional support, in addition to certain life events, were independently related to depression and negative morale; informational support was associated with positive morale. Neither social support nor stressful life events were associated with physical health. It was concluded that social support research would benefit from attention to the multidimensionality of support and greater specificity in hypotheses about the relationship between types of support and adaptational outcomes.

Key words

social support stressful life events psychological symptoms morale health status 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Andrews, G., Tennant, C., Hewson, D., and Schonell, M. (1978). The relation of social factors to physical and psychiatric illness.Am. J. Epidemiol. 108: 27–35.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Berkman, L. F., and Syme, S. L. (1979). Social networks, host resistance, and mortality: A nine-year follow-up study of Alameda County residents.Am. J. Epidemiol. 109: 186–204.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bloom, J. R. (1978). Social support, coping and adjustment to mastectomy. Paper presented at International Congress on Cancer, Buenos Aires, Argentina.Google Scholar
  4. Bradburn, N., and Caplovitz, D. (1965).Reports on Happiness: A Pilot Study of Behavior Related to Mental Health, Aldine, Chicago.Google Scholar
  5. Brown, G. W., Bhrölcháin, M. N., and Harris, T. (1975). Social class and psychiatric disturbance among women in an urban population.Sociology 9: 225–254.Google Scholar
  6. Campbell, A. (1976). Subjective measures of well-being.Am. Psychol. 31: 117–124.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Cassel, J. (1976). The contribution of the social environment to host resistance.Am. J. Epidemiol. 104: 107–123.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Cobb, S. (1976). Social support as a moderator of life stress.Psychosom. Med. 38: 300–314.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Costa, P. T., and McCrae, R. R. (1980a). Influence of extraversion and neuroticism on subjective well-being: Happy and unhappy people.J. Personal. Soc. Psychol. 38: 668–677.Google Scholar
  10. Costa, P. T., and McCrae, R. R. (1980b). Somatic complaints in males as a function of age and neuroticism: A longitudinal analysis.J. Behav. Med. 3: 245–258.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Coyne, J. C. (1976a). Depression and the response of others.J. Abnorm. Psychol. 85: 186–193.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Coyne, J. C. (1976b). Toward an interactional description of depression.Psychiatry 39: 28–40.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Coyne, J. C., and Lazarus, R. S. (1980). Cognition, stress, and coping: A transactional perspective. In Kutash, I. L., and Schlesinger, L. B. (eds.),Pressure Point: Perspectives on Stress and Anxiety, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.Google Scholar
  14. Cronbach, L. J. (1951). Coefficient alpha and the internal structure of tests.Psychometrika 16: 542–548.Google Scholar
  15. Croog, S. (1970). The family as a source of stress. In Levine, S., and Scotch, N. A. (eds.),Social Stress, Aldine, Chicago.Google Scholar
  16. Dean, A., and Lin, N. (1977). The stress-buffering role of social support.J. Nerv. Ment. Dis. 169: 403–417.Google Scholar
  17. Derogatis, L. R., Lipman, R. S., Covi, L., Rickels, K., and Uhlenhuth, E. H. (1970). Dimensions of outpatient neurotic pathology: Comparison of a clinical versus an empirical assessment.J. Consult. Psychol. 34: 164–171.Google Scholar
  18. Derogatis, L. R., Lipman, R. S., Covi, L., and Rickels, K. (1971). Neurotic symptom dimensions: As perceived by psychiatrists and patients of various social classes.Arch. Gen. Psychiat. 24: 454–464.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Derogatis, L. R., Lipman, R. S., Rickels, K., Uhlenhuth, E. H., and Covi, L. (1974). The Hopkins Symptom Checklist (HSCL): A measure of primary symptom dimensions. In Pichot, P. (ed.),Psychological Measurements in Psychopharmacology. Modern Problems in Pharmacopsychiatry, Vol. 7, Karger, Basel.Google Scholar
  20. Dohrenwend, B. P. (1974). Problems in defining and sampling the relevant population of stressful life events. In Dohrenwend, B. S., and Dohrenwend, B. P. (eds.),Stressful Life Events: Their Nature and Effects, Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  21. Ernster, V. L., Sacks, S. T., Selvin, S., and Petrakis, N. L. (1979). Cancer incidence by marital status: U.S. Third National Cancer Survey.J. Nat. Cancer Inst. 63: 567–585.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Folkman, S., Schaefer, C., and Lazarus, R. S. (1979). Cognitive processes as mediators of stress and coping. In Hamilton, V., and Warburton, D. M. (eds.),Human Stress and Cognition: An Information-processing Approach, Wiley, London.Google Scholar
  23. Goldberg, E. L., and Comstock, G. W. (1980). Epidemiology of life events: Frequency in general populations.Am. J. Epidemiol. 111: 736–752.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Gore, S. (1978). The effect of social support in moderating the health consequences of unemployment.J. Health Soc. Behav. 19: 157–165.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Granovetter, M. S. (1973). The strength of weak ties.Am. J. Sociol. 73: 1360–1380.Google Scholar
  26. Henderson, S. K., Byrne, D. G., Duncan-Jones, P., Adcock, S., Scott, R., and Steele, G. P. (1978). Social bonds in the epidemiology of neurosis: A preliminary communication.Brit. J. Psychiat. 132: 463–466.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Holmes, T. H., and Rahe, R. H. (1967). The social readjustment rating scale.J. Psychosom. Res. 11: 213–218.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Kanner, A. D., Coyne, J. C., Schaefer, C., and Lazarus, R. S. (1981). Comparison of two modes of stress measurement: Daily hassles and uplifts versus major life events.J. Behav. Med. 4: 1–39.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Kaplan, B. H., Cassel, J., and Gore, S. (1977). Social support and health.Med. Care 15(5): 47–58.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. LaRocco, J. L., House, J. S., and French, J. R. P., Jr. (1980). Social support, occupational stress, and health.J. Health Soc. Behav. 21: 202–218.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Lazarus, R. S. (1981). The stress and coping paradigm. In Eisdorfer, C., Cohen, D., Kleinman, A., and Maxim, P. (eds.),Theoretical Bases for Psychopathology, Spectrum, New York.Google Scholar
  32. Lazarus, R. S., and Launier, R. (1978). Stress-related transactions between person and environment. In Pervin, L. A., and Lewis, M. (eds.),Perspectives in Interactional Psychology, Plenum, New York.Google Scholar
  33. Lazarus, R. S., Kanner, A. D., and Folkman, S. (1980). Emotions: A cognitive-phenomenological analysis. In Plutchik, R., and Kellerman, H. (eds.),Theories of Emotion, Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  34. Liem, R., and Liem, J. (1978). Social class and mental illness reconsidered: The role of economic stress and social support.J. Health Soc. Behav. 19: 139–156.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Lin, N., Simeone, R. S., Ensel, W. M., and Kuo, W. (1979). Social support, stressful life events, and illness: A model and empirical test.J. Health Soc. Behav. 20: 108–119.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Lowenthal, M. F. (1964). Social isolation and mental illness in old age.Am. Sociol. Rev. 29: 54–70.Google Scholar
  37. Lowenthal, M. F., and Haven, C. (1968). Interaction and adaptation: Intimacy as a critical variable.Am. Sociol. Rev. 33: 20–29.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Meltzer, J., and Hochstim, J. (1970). Reliability and validity of survey data on physical health.Publ. Health Rep. 85: 1075–1086.Google Scholar
  39. Miller, P., McC., and Ingham, J. G. (1976). Friends, confidants and symptoms.Soc. Psychiat. 11: 51–58.Google Scholar
  40. Mitchell, J. C. (1969).Social Networks in Urban Situations, Manchester University Press, Manchester, England.Google Scholar
  41. Nuckolls, K. B., Cassel, J., and Kaplan, B. H. (1972). Psychosocial assets, life crisis, and the prognosis of pregnancy.Am. J. Epidemiol. 95: 431–441.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Ortmeyer, C. F. (1974). Variations in mortality, morbidity, and health care by marital status. In Erhardt, C. L., and Berlin, J. E. (eds.),Mortality and Morbidity in the United States, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass.Google Scholar
  43. Parsons, T. (1951).The Social System, The Free Press, New York.Google Scholar
  44. Parsons, T. (1972). Definitions of health and illness in the light of American values and social structure. In Jaco, E. G. (ed.),Patients, Physicians and Illness, 2nd ed., The Free Press, New York.Google Scholar
  45. Rabkin, J. G., and Struening, E. L. (1976). Life events, stress, and illness.Science 194: 1013–1020.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Rickels, K., Lipman, R. S., Garcia, C. R., and Fisher, E. (1972). Evaluating clinical improvement in anxious outpatients: A comparison of normal and treated neurotic patients.Am. J. Psychiat. 128: 119–123.Google Scholar
  47. Satariano, W. A., and Syme, S. L. (1980). Life changes and diseases in elderly populations: Coping with change. In McGaugh, J., Kiesler, S., and Marsh, J. G. (eds.),Biology, Behavior, and Aging, Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  48. Syme, S. L. (1981). Sociocultural factors and disease etiology. In Gentry, W. D. (ed.),The Handbook of Behavioral Medicine, Guilford, New York (in press).Google Scholar
  49. Uhlenhuth, E. H., Lipman, R. S., Balter, M. B., and Stern, M. (1974). Symptom intensity and life stress in the city.Arch. Gen. Psychiat. 31: 759–764.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Vaughn, C. E., and Leff, J. P. (1976). The influence of family and social factors in the course of psychiatric illness.Br. J. Psychiat. 129: 125–137.Google Scholar
  51. Weiss, R. S. (1968). Materials for a theory of social relationships. In Bennis, W. G., Schein, E. H., Steele, F. I., and Berlew, D. E. (eds.),Interpersonal Dynamics: Essays and Readings on Human Interactions, 2nd ed., Dorsey, Homewood, Ill.Google Scholar
  52. Weiss, R. S. (1974). The provisions of social relationships. In Rubin, Z. (ed.),Doing Unto Others, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.Google Scholar
  53. Wilson, W. (1967). Correlates of avowed happiness.Psychol. Bull. 67: 294–306.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Wingard, D. G. (1980). The sex differential in mortality rates: Biological and social factors. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of California, Berkeley.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catherine Schaefer
    • 1
  • James C. Coyne
    • 2
  • Richard S. Lazarus
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biomedical and Environmental Health SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeley
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeley

Personalised recommendations