Psychological pathways linking social support to health outcomes: a visit with the "ghosts" of research past, present, and future

Soc Sci Med. 2012 Apr;74(7):949-57. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.11.023. Epub 2012 Jan 28.

Abstract

Contemporary models postulate the importance of psychological mechanisms linking perceived and received social support to physical health outcomes. In this review, we examine studies that directly tested the potential psychological mechanisms responsible for links between social support and health-relevant physiological processes (1980s-2010). Inconsistent with existing theoretical models, no evidence was found that psychological mechanisms such as depression, perceived stress, and other affective processes are directly responsible for links between support and health. We discuss the importance of considering statistical/design issues, emerging conceptual perspectives, and limitations of our existing models for future research aimed at elucidating the psychological mechanisms responsible for links between social support and physical health outcomes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Depression
  • Health Services Research*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Research Design
  • Self Concept
  • Self Efficacy
  • Social Support*
  • Stress, Psychological