Social Support and Health: A Review of Physiological Processes Potentially Underlying Links to Disease Outcomes

Social support has been reliably related to lower rates of morbidity and mortality. An important issue concerns the physiological mechanisms by which support influences such health endpoints. In this review, I examine evidence linking social support to changes in cardiovascular, neuroendocrine, and immune function. Consistent with epidemiological evidence, social support appears to be related to more positive “biological profiles” across these disease-relevant systems. Recent research on immune-mediated inflammatory processes is also starting to provide data on more integrative physiological mechanisms potentially linking social support to health. The implications of these links, along with future research directions are discussed.

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Preparation for this review was generously supported by grant number R01 HL68862 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

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Correspondence to Bert N. Uchino.

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Uchino, B.N. Social Support and Health: A Review of Physiological Processes Potentially Underlying Links to Disease Outcomes. J Behav Med 29, 377–387 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-006-9056-5

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KEY WORDS:

  • social support
  • physical health
  • cardiovascular function
  • neuroendocrine function
  • immune function
  • inflammation.