Social support and relationships are key in maintaining a good mental health. Spending time with people you care about, who care about you, can help you feel supported.
Indeed, our need for social support isn’t just in our heads. As humans, we do have a need for social support and without it, our health can be at risk. The number and strength of your social relationships affect your mental and physical wellbeing.
Studies found that the lack of social support can add 30 points to an adult’s blood pressure reading . A survey of 24,000 workers found that men and women with few social ties were two to three times more likely to suffer from major depression than people with strong social bonds .
When we enjoy strong social support, on the other hand, we are investing in our mental health. It is social support that builds people up during times of challenges and often gives them the strength to move forward.
Simply put, social support refers to the resources provided by a social network to help individuals cope with stress.
Social support comes in various forms and each form plays and serves an important role in your life. Let’s look at each type:
However, all types of social support don’t affect us the same—a long talk with an empathic friend feels different from a talk with someone who has plenty of advice to offer.
There is no best type of social support and we may need or prefer a certain type or a combination of a few types of social support depending on our circumstances.
It’s important to note, however, that the wrong type of support can actually have a detrimental effect, so it helps to know what type of social support is needed in each situation.
In one study involving 103 husbands and wives found that too much information support, usually in the form of unsolicited advice, can actually backfire, and be perceived as worse than not receiving any support at all .
It is easy to assume that social networking occurs only through close friends, family members, or romantic partners. However, social ties that extend far beyond intimate relationships can also influence how socially connected we feel.
In fact, research has identified three distinct types of social connections :
All three types of connections are important and perhaps you can determine which ones need more work by asking yourself: do you have meaningful, long-term social networks in all of these 3 areas? Which ones do you lack more of?
Although we tend to focus only on our closest relationships, even people we associate with most peripherally also contribute to our sense of social connectedness.
Interactions with others across all areas of life, whether at work, school or home can all contribute to our feelings of social connectedness and well-being.
 Hawkley, L. C., Masi, C. M., Berry, J. D., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2006). Loneliness is a unique predictor of age-related differences in systolic blood pressure. Psychology and aging, 21(1), 152–164. https://doi.org/10.1037/0882-7918.104.22.168
 Blackmore, E. R., Stansfeld, S. A., Weller, I., Munce, S., Zagorski, B. M., & Stewart, D. E. (2007). Major depressive episodes and work stress: results from a national population survey. American journal of public health, 97(11), 2088–2093. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2006.104406
 Brock, R. L., & Lawrence, E. (2009). Too much of a good thing: Underprovision versus overprovision of partner support. Journal of Family Psychology, 23(2), 181–192. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0015402
 Hawkley, L. C., Browne, M. W., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2005). How can I connect with thee? Let me count the ways. Psychological Science, 16(10), 798-804.
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