Social and emotional support and its implication for health

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Recent research findings from selected publications focusing on links between social support and physical health are summarized.

Recent findings

Current research is extending our understanding of the influences of social support on health. Many epidemiological studies have concentrated on further linking measures of social support to physical health outcomes. A few studies are now moving into newer areas, such as emphasizing health links with support receipt and provision. Researchers are also interested in outlining relevant pathways, including potential biological (i.e. inflammation) and behavioral (i.e. health behaviors) mechanisms. Interventions attempting to apply basic research on the positive effects of social support are also widespread. Although the longer term effects of such interventions on physical health remain to be determined, such interventions show promise in influencing the quality of life in many chronic disease populations.

Summary

Recent findings often show a robust relationship in which social and emotional support from others can be protective for health. The next generation of studies must explain, however, why this relationship exists and the specificity of such links. This research is in its infancy but will be crucial in order to better tailor support interventions that can impact on physical health outcomes.

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