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Social Support: Relationship to Health

  • By: Amanda Holmstrom
  • In: Encyclopedia of Health Communication
  • Edited by: Teresa L. Thompson
  • Subject:Public Health Education & Health Promotion, Health Psychology, Health Communication

A large body of literature indicates that social support has positive relationships with both physical and mental health and well-being. There are different perspectives on social support and its relationship to health, as well as mechanisms by which social support is hypothesized to affect health. Relationships between social support and more specific indices of physical and mental health are evident, as are both positive and negative health effects of support.

Two models or approaches to social support appear in the literature. A structural approach to social support focuses on characteristics of individuals' social networks, such as number and diversity of relational partners. From this perspective, relationships between networks and indices of health are the focus; for example, size of one's social network may be positively associated ...

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