The effect of social networks and social support on common mental disorders following specific life events

Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2010 Aug;122(2):118-28. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0447.2009.01511.x.


Objective: This study examined the association between life events and common mental disorders while accounting for social networks and social supports.

Method: Participants included 1920 adults in the Baltimore Epidemiologic Catchment Area Cohort who were interviewed in 1993-1996, of whom 1071 were re-interviewed in 2004-2005. Generalized estimating equations were used to analyze the data.

Results: Social support from friends, spouse or relatives was associated with significantly reduced odds of panic disorder and psychological distress, after experiencing specific life events. Social networks or social support had no significant stress-buffering effect. Social networks and social support had almost no direct or buffering effect on major depressive disorder, and no effect on generalized anxiety disorder and alcohol abuse or dependence disorder.

Conclusion: The significant association between social support and psychological distress, rather than diagnosable mental disorders, highlights the importance of social support, especially when the severity of a mental health related problem is low.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcoholism / diagnosis
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Bereavement
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Friends / psychology
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Panic Disorder / diagnosis
  • Panic Disorder / psychology
  • Social Support*