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 What Is Social Support?

 

Simply put, social support is the help we get from other people. There are four basic kinds of social support:

  • emotional support (e.g., comforting a friend after a difficult relationship break-up)
  • financial or material help (e.g., giving a neighbor clothes and household necessities after a house fire)
  • advice or information (e.g., helping a sister to decide what to major in)
  • assistance (e.g., driving a parent to the doctor)

We get our social support from our social network. It doesn 't matter how big the social network is. Rather it is the quality of the social network that determines how helpful it is. After all, you can know everyone in town and not have a single person you feel comfortable confiding in or asking favors from.

How Does It Help?

Some researchers think that social support acts as a buffer between a person and what is stressful for them. This means that social support is particularly helpful during times of stress. For example, if you were having a bad day and you complained to a friend, you might feel better or think about your problems in a different way.

Other researchers think that social support works directly because a.) support itself makes people feel like they belong b.) people with social support have other people to care for them so that they eat well, exercise, go to the doctor, etc.



The Physical and Psychological Benefits of Social Support

Now you know that social support can make you feel better, help you think through problems better, and might even help you pay your rent when money is tight! Social support is often thought to be beneficial to health. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that socially isolated people have worse psychological and physical health, and even higher death rates! Since social support acts as a buffer and stress is a factor in many illnesses, good social support may make you more likely to be healthy. For example, social support may be helpful for cardiovascular disease and immune system functioning.

No one is an Island

No man, or woman for that matter, is an island. Most people feel better when they have other people around who love, support, and help them. When people are feeling stressed out, it often helps to turn to a friend or loved one for support.

Sometimes just talking can be enough. Sometimes others can help you see your situation in a new light. Friends, families, and loved ones are often the people who remind us to exercise or drive us to the doctor. Besides helping us directly, they help us to take care of ourselves.

It 's easy forget about the resources we have in the people around us. When you are feeling stressed, you may want to stop and consider who is out there who might be able to help.



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