Family and Social Support
Positive social support (family or friends) plays an important role in one’s ability to make healthier choices. Social support means being able to access people that a person can rely upon if needed.
The support of family and friends during a crisis has long been seen to have a positive emotional effect on people. However, this support also has a physical benefit as well. During stressful times, people tend to experience higher blood pressure and heart rates. However, the presence of friends or family members has been shown to reduce these rates among people during difficult periods.
In terms of chronic disease, the support of family or friends has been shown to lessen the chance that one will become sick or die from heart disease. Research conducted at Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina showed that people who did not have strong social support were 50% more likely to die from illness than those who had such support.1
Family and friends are also important for those who have been diagnosed with chronic disease such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.2 Having such support systems is beneficial in helping patients follow a physician's recommendations. Strong social support will help patients adhere to their medical regimen by reminding them to:
- Keep their medical appointments
- Monitor their blood sugar and blood pressure
- Take their medicines
- Get regular exercise
- Eat healthier foods
Finally, family and friends can also provide practical support, such as rides to the doctor or pharmacy, going to the supermarket, and offering childcare during health care visits. The encouragement of friends and co-workers can motivate people who have been ill to take steps to be more active and get back to work more quickly than those who do not have a strong support system.
Family and Social Support Resources
Baltimore City Health Department
Baltimore City Social Services
Enoch Pratt Library
1Blue, Laura. July 28, 2010. Recipe for Longevity: No Smoking, Lots of Friends. http://www.time.com/health/article/0,8599,2006938,00.html#ixzz18NIVQCHe
2Gallant, Mary P. The influence of social support on chronic illness self-management: A review and directions for research. Health Educaion and Behavior 30:170-195, 2003.