Social support, loneliness, recuperative processes, and their direct and indirect effects on health

Health Commun. 2011 Apr;26(3):221-32. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2010.546771.


This study tested predictions that potentially explain why social support is associated with better health and loneliness is associated with poorer health. Social support was predicted to be associated with better health because it minimizes loneliness, which itself is associated with poor health. In particular, this study evaluated the role of recuperative processes, namely, sleep and leisure, in the association between loneliness and poor health. Participants were 224 adults aged 18-81 years who completed measures of social support, loneliness, health, sleep quality, and leisure. Results indicated that social support had an indirect association with better health, through lower loneliness. There was also evidence supporting or at least partially supporting the assumption that one mechanism by which loneliness is associated with poorer health is through less functional recuperative processes, specifically sleep and leisure. Finally, social support moderated the association between age and health such that among those with relatively high levels of social support, age and health were positively associated.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Loneliness*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sleep*
  • Social Support*
  • United States
  • Young Adult