Social support is one of the aspects that is linked to improved lives and the wellbeing of individuals. Different scholars have examined the influence of social support on health outcomes. According to their findings from these epidemiological studies, people who experience low social support experience greater mortality rates, particularly those suffering from heart diseases (Uchino, 2006). Furthermore, social support follows distinct physiological pathways that link it to physical health in aspects related to cardiovascular, endocrine, and immune functions. This essay, therefore, seeks to provide a detailed analysis of how social support influences physical health outcomes.
Social support denotes the physical and emotional support that one receives from friends, family members, coworkers, and significant others when they are unwell (Uchino, 2006). Social support often encompasses a person’s social life and other more explicit purposes that may help fulfill emotional functions. Including structural and functional measures in social support is an important aspect since it helps in influencing morbidity and mortality through two different independent pathways (Uchino, 2006). One of the major pathways in social support involves behavioral processes such as health behaviors and adherence to medical regimens. According to Umbreon, 1987, social support is one of the health-promoting strategies since it facilitates encouraging patients to take part in healthy behaviors such as exercising, taking a balanced diet, and quitting unhealthy practices such as smoking (Uchino, 2006). On the other hand, the second path encompasses psychosomatic processes directly related to evaluations, emotions, or moods.
One area in which social support plays an influential role is among patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases. According to a study conducted by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Family heart, social support reduced the likelihood of women suffering from atherosclerosis from developing heart disease (Uchino, 2006). The reduction in these risks is because social support has some stress-buffering properties, which is beneficial to patients.
Social support is also important since it plays a major role in preventing the rapid progression of diagnosed cardiovascular diseases. Occasionally, the acute stress experienced by cardiac patients predisposes them to develop ischemia as a result of the numerous hemodynamic variations experienced in the blood pressure (Uchino, 2006). Thus, social support is important among cardiac patients since it reduces the deleterious cardiovascular changes that may arise during stress periods. The existing imaging studies also reveal that social support is vital in reducing the progression of cardiovascular diseases. Women who lacked emotional support experienced a faster rate of cardiovascular disease progression compared to those who did not have (Uchino, 2006). Using these findings, it is evident that social support is influential in reducing mortality due to cardiovascular diseases.
Social support is also associated to an enhanced immune system, especially among the elderly. Most old adults’ immune system is impaired, and this predisposes them to easily contracting diseases. As a result, older adults need stronger social support networks to strengthen their emotional and psychological wellbeing. Social support among the elderly helps to increase their resilience to stress and offers them proactive ways of managing stress. In the long run, this strengthens their immunity hence preventing their susceptibility to infections (Uchino, 2006). The HIV-positive population also benefits from the relationships between social supports and their immune function. According to findings from Person et al., 1994, social support served as an important predictor of T- helper cells as time evolved (Uchino, 2006). Using the outlined aspects, it is evident that social support is associated with positive health results among diverse populations, including cardiac patients, the elderly, and HIV positive patients.
Uchino, B. N. (2006). Social support and health: a review of physiological processes potentially underlying links to disease outcomes. Journal of behavioral medicine, 29(4), 377-387.