According to Schneider, Gruman and Coutts (2012), social support is defined as resources we obtain from others. Social support can come from family members, the community, work associates and other groups. Social support helps form identity for people and it helps improve stress responses which in turn benefit our overall health. This doesn’t mean that knowing a lot of people is beneficial. It means having good quality relationships with people who you can count on and depend on for support and guidance can affect your overall health in a positive way.
As stated in Berkman’s article (1984), there is a difference between social networks and social support. Social support can be given in the forms of emotional, instrumental (goods and services) and financial assistance or appraisal from a social network. It is an exchange that takes place between the individuals. We should not assume that because a family member lives in the same home or a few blocks away that they are providing social support to the other family member.
I guess you can say I have a strong social support system within my family. As a child, my main social support came from my parents and my siblings and now as an adult, my main social support consists of my husband, my daughter and my friends. I must mention that I have one sibling in my family who is a part of my social network but is in no way shape or form social support to me or anyone else. As for my family, my husband and daughter are my biggest supporters and my go to people when I need some problem-solving assistance or emotional support. My husband is my stress supporter because he helps me overcome stressful situations on a regular basis.
On another note, my daughter was my motivation to quit smoking when she was a child. Simply due to her presence and her opinion about the habit that she willingly expressed to me, I was able to quit cold turkey without any assistance. The last time I smoked was over fifteen years ago and I am happy to report that I have never relapsed. Based on my own personal experience, I am a firm believer that social support is beneficial to our health. Just simply knowing you have people who care about you and want the best for you can improve your coping abilities for stress and help motivate you to make positive changes in your life.
In our textbook, it is mentioned that social support not only contributes to health, but if can influence people to practice healthy behaviors. Social support can encourage people to continue exercising and or stay on their path to living a healthier lifestyle. It can also cause a person to stop or change a negative behavior or go see a doctor when ill (Schneider et al, 2012). In summary, I think it is safe to say that social support can be empowering and can have a positive influence on one’s overall health.
Berkman, L. F. (1984). Assessing the Physical Health Effects of Social Networks and Social Support. Annual Review of Public Health, 5(1), 413-432. doi:10.1146/annurev.pu.05.050184.002213
Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.