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


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  • Uchino, Bert N.
  • Bowen, Kimberly
  • Carlisle, McKenzie
  • Birmingham, Wendy
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    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.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 74 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 7 ()
    Pages: 949-957

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:74:y:2012:i:7:p:949-957

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    Keywords: Social support; Psychological mechanisms; Physiology; Review;


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    1. Berkman, Lisa F. & Glass, Thomas & Brissette, Ian & Seeman, Teresa E., 2000. "From social integration to health: Durkheim in the new millennium," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 51(6), pages 843-857, September.
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    Cited by:
    1. Ellwardt, Lea & Aartsen, Marja & Deeg, Dorly & Steverink, Nardi, 2013. "Does loneliness mediate the relation between social support and cognitive functioning in later life?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 116-124.
    2. Conklin, Annalijn I. & Forouhi, Nita G. & Surtees, Paul & Khaw, Kay-Tee & Wareham, Nicholas J. & Monsivais, Pablo, 2014. "Social relationships and healthful dietary behaviour: Evidence from over-50s in the EPIC cohort, UK," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 167-175.
    3. Wolff, Julia K. & Schmiedek, Florian & Brose, Annette & Lindenberger, Ulman, 2013. "Physical and emotional well-being and the balance of needed and received emotional support: Age differences in a daily diary study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 67-75.


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