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Social support is defined as information leading the subject to believe that he is cared for and loved, esteemed, and a member of a network of mutual obligations. The evidence that supportive interactions among people are protective against the health consequences of life stress is reviewed. It appears that social support can protect people in crisis from a wide variety of pathological states: from low birth weight to death, from arthritis through tuberculosis to depression, alcoholism, and the social breakdown syndrome. Furthermore, social support may reduce the amount of medication required, accelerate recovery, and facilitate compliance with prescribed medical regimens.