Stress, coping, and social support processes: where are we? What next?

J Health Soc Behav. 1995;Spec No:53-79.


I review existing knowledge, unanswered questions, and new directions in research on stress, coping resource, coping strategies, and social support processes. New directions in research on stressors include examining the differing impacts of stress across a range of physical and mental health outcomes, the "carry-overs" of stress from one role domain or stage of life into another, the benefits derived from negative experiences, and the determinants of the meaning of stressors. Although a sense of personal control and perceived social support influence health and mental health both directly and as stress buffers, the theoretical mechanisms through which they do so still require elaboration and testing. New work suggests that coping flexibility and structural constraints on individuals' coping efforts may be important to pursue. Promising new directions in social support research include studies of the negative effects of social relationships and of support giving, mutual coping and support-giving dynamics, optimal "matches" between individuals' needs and support received, and properties of groups which can provide a sense of social support. Qualitative comparative analysis, optimal matching analysis, and event-structure analysis are new techniques which may help advance research in these broad topic areas. To enhance the effectiveness of coping and social support interventions, intervening mechanisms need to be better understood. Nevertheless, the policy implications of stress research are clear and are important given current interest in health care reform in the United States.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Public Policy
  • Social Support*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Sociology, Medical*
  • Stress, Psychological*