Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 70–79 | Cite as

Social Support and Self-Care of Patients with Heart Failure

  • Steven L. SayersEmail author
  • Barbara Riegel
  • Stephanie Pawlowski
  • James C. Coyne
  • Frederick F. Samaha
Original Article



Social support can influence treatment adherence of patients with chronic illnesses, which may explain the positive effects of social support on heart failure (HF) outcomes.


To investigate the effects of social support among patients with HF, we examined whether aspects of social support were associated with self-care, including medication adherence, dietary adherence, and HF symptom monitoring functions.


We recruited 74 patients with HF from cardiology clinics of a Veterans Affairs Medical Center and a university-affiliated hospital, and tested the relationships between social support and the patients’ self-care.


Consistent with previous research in older adults, family members, especially spouses, were often involved in the medical care of patients with chronic HF and provided a range of levels of support to patients. Self-care was generally poor, as measured across several self-care domains. Perceived social support was moderately associated with relatively better self-reported medication and dietary adherence, and other aspects of self-care such as daily weighing.


These findings suggest that a relatively higher level of self-care is an important correlate of social support and may explain how social support influences HF outcomes. This study also suggests that family members should play a greater part in clinical care focused on improving self-care.


Heart failure Social support Self-care 



This work was supported by grant 0265447U from the American Heart Association, a VISN 4 Competitive Pilot Project Fund grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center of VISN 4. We extend our appreciation to Bruce Dunkman, MD; Lawrence Frame, MD; Joyce McGrory, ACNP; and Susan Potts-Nulty, ACNP, for their help in recruiting patients for face-to-face assessment. Many thanks to Robert Carels, PhD; Kate Taylor, PhD; and Shahrzad Mavandadi, Ph.D., for their expert comments on an earlier version of this paper, as well as the helpful comments of three anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© The Society of Behavioral Medicine 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven L. Sayers
    • 1
    Email author
  • Barbara Riegel
    • 2
  • Stephanie Pawlowski
    • 3
  • James C. Coyne
    • 3
  • Frederick F. Samaha
    • 1
  1. 1.Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical CenterUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.School of NursingUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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