Mental health is a growing concern in today’s society, and understanding the factors that contribute to it is crucial. One important factor is social support, and in this post, we’ll take a closer look at the relationship between social support and mental health.
Social support refers to the emotional and practical help that we receive from others, including friends, family, and significant others. Research has consistently shown that social support is positively associated with better mental health outcomes (Cohen & Wills, 1985; Russel & Cutrona, 1990). For example, individuals with higher levels of social support are less likely to experience depression (Barrera & Castro, 1984), anxiety (Holt-Lunstad, Birmingham, & Jones, 2008), and stress (Thoits, 1995).
One reason for this relationship is that social support provides a sense of belonging and helps to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation (Perlman & Peplau, 1981). This, in turn, can help to reduce stress (Taylor, Klein, Lewis, Gruenewald, Gurung, & Updegraff, 2000) and improve mood (Diener, et al., 2010). Social support can also provide practical help, such as providing a listening ear, helping with tasks, or offering financial support (Lin, Dean, Ensel, & Xie, 1997).
In addition to its impact on mental health, social support has been shown to play a role in physical health outcomes as well. For example, individuals with higher levels of social support are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors, such as exercise and healthy eating (Penedo & Dahn, 2005), and are less likely to smoke or engage in other health-risk behaviors (Friedenreich, Bryant, & Courneya, 2003).
In conclusion, social support is an important factor in promoting mental and physical health. Encouraging and maintaining social connections can have a significant positive impact on our well-being, and it’s something that we can all work on, regardless of our individual circumstances. Whether it’s reaching out to a friend for support, joining a local group, or volunteering, there are many ways to build and maintain social connections that can improve our health and well-being (Heinrich & Gullone, 2006).
Barrera, M., & Castro, F. G. (1984). Social support in the adjustment of Mexican-American and Anglo-American mothers. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 6(4), 437-456.
Cohen, S., & Wills, T. A. (1985). Stress, social support, and the buffering hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 98(2), 310-357.
Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. L. (2010). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 126(2), 276-302.
Friedenreich, C. M., Bryant, H. E., & Courneya, K. S. (2003). Social support, physical activity and cancer. Cancer Causes & Control, 14(6), 557-575.
Heinrich, L. M., & Gullone, E. (2006). The development and validation of the Social Support Seeking Scale. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 45(2), 259-274.
Holt-Lunstad, J., Birmingham, W