Gender differences in social support and physical health

Health Psychol. 1991;10(2):102-11. doi: 10.1037//0278-6133.10.2.102.


A large body of prospective data has accumulated linking social support to health, and most social scientists agree that low levels of support are associated with poor physical and mental health. Unfortunately, most of the research has been limited to White men. When women and people of color are included in the designs, the relationships between social support and physical health are more complicated. Prospective population-based studies provide evidence that low support is associated with increased risk of mortality in women. However, in several studies, results indicated that, for specific age groups, women with high social support have increased risk of mortality. Factors that may contribute to the observed gender differences in the social support-physical health relationship are discussed. Future research should include adequate numbers of women and more sophisticated measures of social support to move the field forward.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / psychology
  • Cause of Death
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / mortality
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Support*
  • Somatoform Disorders / mortality
  • Somatoform Disorders / psychology*