Social support strategies for mental health

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Some people think that humans by nature are social beings. That we need some degree of social connection/interaction with others to maintain our own well-being, manage stress, happiness, and overall emotional health.

Each person may need to tailor the amount and type of social interaction based on their personality, needs, and available options.

Is there any research on social support and mental health of college students?

There are many studies, some of them have found the following:

  • In one study of college students, lower perceived social support was found to have a 6 fold increase in depression risk relative to higher perceived social support (1).
  • Another study found that peer support benefits mental health (2).
  • In another study, social support from family and friends jointly influenced about 80 % of the effect of life satisfaction and hopelessness on drinking alcohol (3).
  • Finally, a study of about 1200 students found that students with higher social support had better mental health (4).

What are some strategies to increase social support?

Any additional resources?

Think of current or past friendships, relationships, etc. that have been meaningful/supportive.  Can you think of a way to periodically connect with them in person, online or by phone?

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. Hefner, J., & Eisenberg, D. (2009). Social support and mental health among college students. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 79(4), 491-499. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0016918
  2. O’Connell MJ, Sledge WH, Staeheli M, Sells D, Costa M, Wieland M, Davidson L. Outcomes of a Peer Mentor Intervention for Persons With Recurrent Psychiatric Hospitalization. Psychiatr Serv. 2018 Apr 16:appips201600478. doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201600478. [Epub ahead of print]
  3. Catie CW Lai and Cecilia MS Ma. The mediating role of social support in the relationship between psychological well-being and health-risk behaviors among Chinese university students. Health Psychology Open.  https://doi.org/10.1177/2055102916678106 First Published November 8, 2016
  4. Tahmasbipour, A. Taheri. A Survey on the Relation Between Social Support and Mental Health in Students Shahid Rajaee University. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences. Volume 47, 2012, Pages 5-9, ISSN 1877-0428, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.06.603.