Social support has been reliably related to physical health outcomes. However, the conceptual basis of such links needs greater development. In this article, I argue for a life-span perspective on social support and health that takes into account distinct antecedent processes and mechanisms that are related to measures of support over time. Such a view highlights the need to distinguish measures of perceived and received support and its links to more specific diseases (e.g., chronic, acute) and stages of disease development (e.g., incidence). I discuss both the novel implications of these theoretical arguments for research on social support and physical health, as well as the potential intervention approaches that are apparent from this perspective.
© 2009 Association for Psychological Science.