Benefits of relationships on well-being
Self-esteem is the vealuation you have of yourself - whether you think highly of yourself or not. Research had generally shown that high self-esteem is associated with being successful at school, your job and so on. One source of self-esteem is the social support provided by relationships.
Social support and self-esteem The effects of social support on self-esteem were demonstrated in a study by Krause (1987), looking at retired participants aged 65 - 95 years. Krause also found that the increased social support led to a decrease in depression. This effect was largely due to the influence of emotional support and its effect on feelings of self-worth and, to a lesser extent, on informational support (e.g. being give advice about coping strategies). This shows how important it is to mobilise social support in the elderly.
Interaction with stress It seems that the beneficial effects of social support on self-esteem may only be found in people who are stressed. This was the conclusion reached by Druley and Townsend (1998) who studied both healthy and unhealthy people but found that self-esteem only improved in the unhealthy people. this may be because wwe rely on other people most when feeling stressed, due to the incapacity of illness. Symister and Friend (2003) further explored the effect of social support on self-esteem in unhealthy participants in a study of 86 patients with kidney failure. For these patients social support was found to increase self-esteem which, in turn, increased optimism and reduced depression.
Buffering from stress
Stress has a damaging effect on health, as known from Selye's general adaptation syndrome. Research has shown that social support can act as a buffer against these damaging effects. For example Kamark et al (1990) gave participants a series of stressful tasks and assessed their physiological reactions. Some participants completed the tasks with a friend sitting next to them whereas others were alone. Those who were with a friend showed lower physiological responses, i.e. less stress.
The main (or direct) effect hypothesis suggests that psychological well-being is correlated with social support because our relationships with acquaintances, friends or partners are, in themselves, rewarding. This could provide a sense of belonging or boost our self-esteem so we benefit regardless of whether or not we are under stress. Conversely, an absence of social support is stressful so would be the cause (rather than consequence) of ill healt. If so, relationships would benefit health regardless…