Social support: a conceptual analysis

J Adv Nurs. 1997 Jan;25(1):95-100. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2648.1997.1997025095.x.


Using the methodology of Walker and Avant, the purpose of this paper was to identify the most frequently used theoretical and operational definitions of social support. A positive relationship between social support and health is generally accepted in the literature. However, the set of dimensions used to define social support is inconsistent. In addition, few measurement tools have established reliability and validity. Findings from this conceptual analysis suggested four of the most frequently used defining attributes of social support: emotional, instrumental, informational, and appraisal. Social network, social embeddedness, and social climate were identified as antecedents of social support. Social support consequences were subsumed under the general rubric of positive health states. Examples were personal competence, health maintenance behaviours, effective coping behaviours, perceived control, sense of stability, recognition of self-worth, positive affect, psychological well-being, and decreased anxiety and depression. Recommendations for future research were made.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Nursing Assessment / methods*
  • Nursing Methodology Research*
  • Nursing Theory*
  • Social Support*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Terminology as Topic