Stress has been shown to lower resistance to disease and thus to have a significant effect on susceptibility to a variety of physical and psychological illnesses. A correlation has also been established between the degree of social stress and an individual's use of medical services. However, the majority of people do not respond to stress in these ways. Social supports (e.g. a caring family) seem to be an important protective factor against the effects of stress. Other mtethods of protection (meditation, relaxation response or learning specific coping skills) are also important, but have been little studied. Given their importance in preventive medicine, the author suggests that social support systems should pay an increasing part in health services.