How Social Support Can Benefit You
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
Written by: Sabrina Sourjah
Date Updated: 6/9/2021
Reviewed by: Patrick D. Randolph, Ph.D.
When we were kids, most of us had social support from family members. In school, having the same superhero water bottle was enough to make friends.
But as we grew older, our social support network somehow faded. We had no time to keep in touch with high school friends or relatives, and we weren’t making friends as easily as we used to as kids.
For some of us, there is something missing in our social support groups. Can we be authentic with our friends and family? Or do we have to hide our true opinions and thoughts to be accepted and loved unconditionally?
What is Social Support?
Social support is defined in psychology as having friends and family to turn to in times of need or crisis. Having social support can give you a different perspective on the crisis at hand and build your positive self-image.
Types of Social Support
Social support activities can come in different forms. You may need different types of support based on the situation and your personality.
- Emotional Support: This is the type of support we need when we want to vent about our problems. We want our support network to listen to us without judgment and validate our struggles.
- Tangible Support: Do you need help moving to a new place? Or do you need to borrow some salt from your neighbor? The support you get in these instances is in the form of an object or service.
- Informational Support: This article is a great example of informational support! Think about the useful information you consume on a day-to-day basis from social media, newspapers, financial advisers, tax planners, and so on.
- Esteem Support: This is when you’re respected by your friends, co-workers, or family because of your passions or achievements. Your support network encourages you and makes you feel like you are more than enough.
- Belonging Support: Two strangers are in line at a restaurant waiting to get in. They start chatting and complaining about the line. This is belonging support. They are both in the same situation, and they support each other, although they’re strangers.
Social Support and Health Outcomes
Why is social support so important to us? How does social support affect our health?
1. Overall Health
Studies show that leukemia and heart disease patients who have extensive social support experience higher survival rates. Other research also finds that there is a “robust relationship” between social and emotional support from others and your health.
2. Surgery Outcomes
Researchers have confirmed that your perceived social support has a positive impact on the functionality of your immune system. When you’re recovering from surgery, a well-functioning immune system is key to wound healing and overall surgery outcomes.
3. Mental Health
Social support and mental health are closely connected. Individuals who have close personal relationships are better equipped to handle stressful situations like bereavement, job loss, and illness. Poor social support has been linked to loneliness, depression, alcohol use, and suicidal thoughts.
Close relationships can also keep you more accountable to maintain healthy habits like exercise, meditation, and self-care, reducing the probability of stress or anxiety.
In a study of middle-aged individuals over a period of seven years, it was discovered that men with strong social and emotional support had a lower probability of dying. The study also found that men needed more tangible support while women tend to need more emotional support.
5. Life Satisfaction
Life will keep sending challenges our way, as this is the nature of life. Facing these challenges alone can be exhausting and painful. But with the right social support, we can face these challenges and come out on the other side with more life satisfaction and a life well-lived.
If you feel like you don’t have enough social support, you can directly raise your concerns with your social circle.
However, if you still don’t get the support you need, find new support groups. There are many, many people out there who are facing the same challenges as you. Look at your church group, online chat groups, mental health support groups, work colleagues, and people with similar hobbies for social support.