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Social Support

Social support refers to the various types of support that people receive from others and is usually separated into two distinct categories: emotional and instrumental support. Emotional support is characterized by things that people do for each other that makes them feel cared for and supports feelings of esteem and worthiness. Instrumental support refers to the various types of tangible help that others may provide (i.e. financial support, child-care, etc). 

There does not, at this time, seem to be a “gold-standard” for social support scales as there are a variety of instruments currently used which have yielded scores successfully related to various health outcomes. Instruments range from single items used to assess whether or not major types of support are available to more extensive instruments including multiple items asking about various types of emotional support and various types of instrumental/informational support.

Choice of the appropriate measure(s) for use in research projects will likely be driven by such factors as: a) available time (some measures require considerably more time than others) and, b) whether assessments for different types of relationships are hypothesized to be important.

http://www.macses.ucsf.edu/research/psychosocial/socsupp.php, 

Summary prepared by Teresa Seeman in collaboration with the Psychosocial Working Group. Last revised April 2008.

 

Below: Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (Zimet, Dahlem, Zimet & Farley, 1988) 

Instructions:  We are interested in how you feel about the following statements.  Read each statement carefully.   Indicate how you feel about each statement. 

 

   Circle the “1” if you Very Strongly Disagree

   Circle the “2” if you Strongly Disagree

   Circle the “3” if you Mildly Disagree 

   Circle the “4” if you are Neutral

   Circle the “5” if you Mildly Agree

   Circle the “6” if you Strongly Agree

   Circle the “7” if you Very Strongly Agree

 

 1.  There is a special person who is around when I am in need. 

 2.  There is a special person with whom I can share my joys and sorrows.  

 3.  My family really tries to help me.  

 4.  I get the emotional help and support I need from my family. 

 5.   I have a special person who is a real source of comfort to me. 

 6.   My friends really try to help me. 

 7.  I can count on my friends when things go wrong

 8.  I can talk about my problems with my family. 

 9.  I have friends with whom I can share my joys and sorrows. 

10.  There is a special person in my life who cares about my feelings. 

11.  My family is willing to help me make decisions. 

12.  I can talk about my problems with my friends. 

 

In the classic Whitehall Study, an epidemiological study that followed middle-aged British civil servants over several years, researchers found that high job demands and effort-reward imbalance as well as low social support at work and low decision authority (e.g., job control) were associated with increased risk of psychiatric morbidity (including depression), even after controlling for psychiatric disorder at baseline, and adjusting for mood and “negative affectivity” [45]. 

While job demands and social support at the first stage of the study had a consistent impact on mental health at the next two time points (Phases 2 and 3), decision-making authority or control had less of an impact on psychiatric disorder at the last stage of the study than during the middle follow-up stage. The researchers suggest it might be because control at work has a more immediate effect on future mental health than other job characteristics [45, p. 306].  

Four cross-sectional studies have investigated the job demand and control model in relationship to burnout [44, 50]. Three of these four studies showed that demands and low control were associated with burnout. The non-supportive fourth study was of construction workers where burnout is not found to be as prevalent as in human service work. One study also investigated the role of social support among female social workers and found that those workers with high demands, low control, and low support were at greater risk of burnout [44].

Taken, in part, from: Schnall PL, Dobson M, Rosskam E, Editors Unhealthy Work: Causes, Consequences, Cures. Baywood Publishing, 2009.

  

 

 

Schnall PL, Dobson M, Rosskam E, Editors Unhealthy Work: Causes, Consequences, Cures. Baywood Publishing, 2009.

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Elovainio, M., P. Leino-Arjas, J. Vahtera, and M. Kivimaki, Justice at Work and Cardiovascular Mortality: A Prospective Cohort Study, Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 61 pp. 271-274, 2006.

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71. Kivimaki, M., J. Ferrie, E. Brunner, et al., Justice at Work and Reduced Risk of Coronary Heart Disease among Employees: The Whitehall II Study, Archives of Internal Medicine, 165, pp. 2245-2251, 2005.

72. Elovainio, M., P. Leino-Arjas, J. Vahtera, and M. Kivimaki, Justice at Work and Cardiovascular Mortality: A Prospective Cohort Study, Journal of Psychosomatic 61 pp. 271-274, 2006.

Mid-Mac Study Measures – Coefficient alphas of .83 – .91 for emotional support from spouse, family and friends indicate good internal reliability (data documentation from Mid-Mac).

MacArthur Successful Aging Study – Two-month test retest data indicate reasonable stability for measures of emotional support (.73) and for levels of demand/criticism (.80), and somewhat lower stability for instrumental support (.44 [.55 for rank correlation]) (Seeman et al, 1994).

 Interpersonal Support Evaluation List – Test-retest data reveal correlations between .77-.86 and internal alpha estimates of .88-.90.

 Canty-Mitchell, J. & Zimet, G.D. (2000). Psychometric properties of the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support in urban adolescents. American Journal of Community Psychology, 28, 391-400. 

 Zimet, G.D., Dahlem, N.W., Zimet, S.G. & Farley, G.K. (1988). The Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support. Journal of Personality Assessment, 52, 30-41. 

 Zimet, G.D., Powell, S.S., Farley, G.K., Werkman, S. & Berkoff, K.A. (1990). Psychometric characteristics of the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support. Journal of Personality Assessment, 55, 610-1

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