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Glossary of Terms

Social support

General public definition

  • At its simplest, you can think of social support as the extent to which you feel yourself supported by others.
  • People have social support networks of different sizes. Social support also includes various groups or networks, including people from work, family, and friends from different parts of a person’s life.
  • We sometimes pick from our respective social networks the people who will “be there for us” and as a result, those who help us experience better health and well-being.

Academic definition

  • At its simplest, social support can be conceptualized as the extent to which people experience themselves as supported by others.
  • Perception of social support comprises a key aspect of the social support construct that is positively associated with emotional health and well-being, and negatively associated with depression and other negative health outcomes.
  • Social support is defined by the perception of being supported by others, and able to rely upon others for emotional and/or instrumental support, or the sense that others will “be there for us” when needed.
  • Variables that are inversely associated with social support, be it conceptually and/or empirically, include loneliness, social isolation, a perception of burdening others, and social hopelessness; those variables that are positively or directly associated with social support include acceptance, connectedness, positive rapport with or identification with others, and “mattering.”
  • Measures and methods for assessing the presence, nature, and degree of social support vary by the aspect of social support being examined.
  • Interventions to promote social support have varied in complexity, from in-person or online peer-support groups and psychotherapy groups, to individual psychological interventions designed to promote and strengthen social support and camaraderie, and reduce or prevent negative psychological symptoms and outcomes.

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