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date: 17 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Social support has been reliably related to lower rates of morbidity and mortality across a number of diseases. However, little is known about the more specific pathways and mechanisms responsible for such links. In this chapter, we argue that part of the link between social support and health is explained by immune-system alternations that, in turn, influence broad-based disease outcomes. Recent studies suggest that social support is related to lower IL-6 and better immune function in biologically relevant contexts (e.g., vaccinations, cancer patients). The implications of these findings are discussed in light of a broad model hypothesizing that social support may influence health outcomes via behavioral (e.g., health behaviors), psychological (e.g., stress appraisals), and neuroendocrine-immune mechanisms. Important future research areas are also emphasized, especially the need to uncover the psychological pathways by which social support may be health-promoting.

Keywords: social support, social networks, functional support, immune function, inflammation, mechanisms, health

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