The Value of Social Support

social support

By Georgia Tetlow, MD and Jill Maddock

“There are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t yet met.” - William Butler Yeats

There are many different forms of social interaction today. With new technology, we have moved away from the usual, face-to-face interactions and transitioned to new ways of communication through email, text, and social media. Social or face-to-face interactions remain important to our health - they activate the set of the brain regions that control the decision making inferences about other human beings. As humans, we build models of others in our minds that help us to make inferences on the other’s state of mind. This automatically happens without conscious awareness. Our minds like to categorize others so they can fit into the complex reasoning in our minds. If we completely take away our face-to-face interactions with others, we limit our inferences and awareness of others.  It is important to maintain this awareness and utilize Social Support as an aspect of our health.

What’s the concern?

Low social support has been known to be associated with increased basic stress markers such as blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol levels thus increasing the chance for negative cardiovascular and neuroendocrine responses. Other outcomes of low social support can include depression, anxiety or ongoing stress, mood disorders, chronic pain, and many other physical and mental disorders.

The Solution

The good news is adequate social support has been proven to lower rates of many physical and psychological disorders. Having a foundation to access during times of need to provide physical, psychological or financial support is important. Social support is accessible through ties to groups, other individuals and a larger community. This includes networks of friends, family, neighbors, community members, and even pets. Pets can help foster relationships with others, for example walking your dog around your neighborhood and meeting your neighbors. Fun fact: pet owners are more than 60% likely to get to know their neighbors!

The majority of research has discovered that a good predictor of health is in the quality of relationships over the quantity, although both are important. Social support can offer resilience to stress and physical or mental mediation to enhance overall health and wellbeing. Those with a strong social network are more than 50% likely to live longer.

When determining the optimal type and source of social support that is beneficial to you, it is important to take your stage of life and experiences into consideration. For example, those who have experienced a trauma such as abuse can benefit from a combination of appraisal and self-esteem support to reinforce that the idea that they are capable of receiving advice and valued by others. Your needs depend on your unique situation. Be compassionate with yourself and listen to your needs! So next time you are having a tough moment, don’t think twice about reaching out whether it be to a family member, co-worker, friend, neighbor, pet, or friendly healthcare provider!


At PIM, the provider-patient relationship is highly valued, our providers consistently offer quality time to you so that you feel heard and treated as an individual.  PIM’s mission also includes the value of provider relationships. Each clinic day, our Integrative team of providers and support staff meet to discuss patient care. Our clinic is highly committed to providing collaborative care to each patient so we like to say: “If you see one of us, you see us all!”


Interested in connecting with PIM? Register for our upcoming group class at Cabrini College: October 17th: Live Long and Prosper: Functional and Integrative Medicine for Cardiovascular Health. Keys to Heart and Blood Vessel Health with Annmarie McManus, MMSc, PA-C, PT, IFMCP. Admission is FREE!

If you or your loved one has ongoing stress, mood or hormone imbalance and, please consider scheduling an appointment with Annmarie McManus, MMSc, PA-C, PT, IFMCP, our certified Functional Medicine PIM provider