The Importance of Social Support on Health

Topics: Maslow's hierarchy of needs, Psychology, Sociology Pages: 5 (1494 words) Published: March 3, 2012

The Importance of Social Support on Health



Although social interaction is complex, some believe that it is vital to human health, both mentally and physically. The nature of social behavior is that many people find it hard to open their hearts and share their feelings and problems. However, social interaction where people can talk out their problems and feel accepted and understood is very beneficial to mental health. It is influenced by the number of interactions we have and the bonds we form within our social group. The term social support has been defined in several ways. It consists of a number of different domains, including emotional support, appraisal and affirmation, informational assistance, intimacy, comfort, and physical affection. Researchers have documented a positive association between social support and physical health and social support has been implicated in the etiology of disease and the success of treatment following illness. (Hale, Hannum, & Espelage 2005). In theory, social relationships are linked to better health in several ways. They may provide emotional benefits, which include intimacy, a sense of belonging, and self-esteem. They may also offer instrumental and material benefits by providing tangible assistance, such as money, services, goods, guidance, and advice (Kanaiaupuni, Donato, Thompson-Colon, & Stainback 2005). One of the earliest studies on social networks and health was Durkheim’s (1951) work on the association between social isolation and suicide. Since then, many studies have documented the health-enhancing effects of social integration. Social support and social engagement reduce mortality risks and disability, improve disease recovery rates and promote cognitive development and function (Berkman 2000). Biological and personality endowments may also affect social relationships, but social relationships have positive effects on health that are independent of these endowments. Although studies focus on healthful effects of social relationships, networks may also contain relationships that negatively affect mental and physical health (Beckerman 2000). In this study the interest in exactly how social networks and social support affect Mexican health has gained considerable attention in recent years. Strong social ties are thought to help promote the health of Mexicans in the United States, who fare better than other groups with similar characteristics. However, most evidence on this point has been speculative. For example, a study on the health of immigrant children by the National Research Council reported, “healthful behaviors may be reinforced by strong family bonds among immigrant groups and communities that sustain cultural orientations that lead to healthful behavior”. Along these lines, many studies have pointed to cultural factors (such as strong ties among Mexican families) that may diminish the deleterious effects of poor socioeconomic status on health (Kanaiaupuni, Donato, Thompson-Colon, & Stainback 2005). The availability of social support is assumed to affect the individual in many ways, including his/her psychological state, cognition, behavior, and response to stress/ It has been shown that social support is beneficial for the cardiovascular, endocrine, and to the physical, and that both main and stress- buffering effects exists (Stberg, & Lenartsson, 2007). Researchers have documented a positive association between social support and physical health and social support has been implicated in the etiology of disease and the success of treatment following illness Essentially, people function best when they are living in socially supportive environments. However, although the literature illustrating a link between social support and physical health provides insights into the general benefits of social support are critical. A study of first-year college students found that those who...

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