Differential effect of social support on the course of chronic disease: A criteria-based literature study

Brenda W.J.H. Penninx, Didi M.W. Kriegsman, Jacques T.H.M. Van Eijk, A. Joan, P. Boeke, J. H. Dorly

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Literature was reviewed in order to examine the effect of social support on the course of chronic diseases. Of the 660 articles obtained, only 65 articles, most of which concerned cardiovascular diseases, met the relevant selection criteria and were methodologically assessed. Social support was mainly operationalized by structural network characteristics (55% of the articles), or by perceived adequacy of support (55% of the articles). Measures to determine type and amount of functional support were used far less frequently. The different operationalizations of social support accounted for varying results regarding the influence on the course of chronic diseases. Perceived social support was apparently of greater importance than structural and functional support measures. Regardless of the type of chronic disease, positively perceived support affected the disease course favorably: there was sufficient evidence for a beneficial influence on psychological adjustment, well-being, functional status, and also more 'objective' health outcomes. Functional measures of the amount of support were related to a more favorable course in cardiovascular disease, which may be partly due to the possibilities that these patients can modify their disease course by adopting healthier lifestyles and better self-care behaviors. Evidence supporting the favorable influence of structural network characteristics was mainly provided by studies on disease-specific mortality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-244
Number of pages22
JournalFamilies, Systems and Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 1996

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