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Kaohsiung J Med Sci. 2003 Jul;19(7):345-51.

Association between social support and health outcomes: a meta-analysis.

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  • 1College of Nursing, Kaohsiung Medical University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan.


The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between social support and health outcome variables, and the effect size of social support on health outcomes. Meta-analysis was used to synthesize the primary studies identified initially from a computer search of the literature in Taiwan. Through preliminary screening related to the inclusion criteria, 165 dissertations and theses and 43 journal articles were included in this study. Finally, 182 primary studies, including 145 dissertations and theses and 37 journal articles, were retained after eliminating outliers of each outcome variable to achieve homogeneity. Based on Smith's four modes of health, 16 health outcome variables were used. Health status, physical symptoms and responses, psychologic symptoms and responses, and depression were categorized as clinical variables. Role function and behaviors and role burden were categorized as role-function variables. Physical adjustment, psychosocial adjustment, adjustment of life, coping behavior, and stress were categorized as adaptive variables. Health belief, health promotion behavior, quality of life, well-being, and self-actualization were categorized as eudemonistic variables. Other than physical adjustment, social support could significantly predict all health outcomes (p < 0.0001). The results provided information not only on the magnitude of the sample size required to achieve statistical significance between social support and each outcome variable as a measure of health in future studies, but also on strategies to guide further intervention programs and to evaluate their effectiveness.

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