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Social relationships, recovery from illness, and survival: A literature review

Abstract

Do medical patients with a high quantity or quality of social relationships have greater chances of recovery and survival than more isolated individuals? This article reviews longitudinal studies of social relationships and recovery published since the last major reviews of this field. Reports of 26 such projects were located, primarily in the areas of heart disease (13 studies) and breast cancer (7 studies). Being married (or socially supported in other ways) was generally associated with survival or freedom from recurrence in multiyear follow-up studies of myocardial infarction (MI) and coronary artery disease patients, although social support produced negative or mixed results in studies of short-term physical adaptation after Ml or bypass surgery. Studies relating marital status and other support variables to recurrence and survival in breast cancer patients also had mixed results. The small number of studies, and other limitations associated with them, suggest caution in drawing strong conclusions.

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Additional information

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 99th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in San Francisco, CA, August 1991.

The author wishes to thank Niall Bolger and a set of anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier versions of the manuscript.

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Reifman, A. Social relationships, recovery from illness, and survival: A literature review. Ann Behav Med 17, 124–131 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02895061

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02895061

Keywords

  • Breast Cancer
  • Social Support
  • Marital Status
  • Behavioral Medicine
  • Cardiovascular Reactivity