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Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 1992;18(1):87-101.

Social support and outcome of alcoholism treatment: an exploratory analysis.

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Iowa Health Services Research & Development Field Program VA Medical Center, Iowa City 52246.


Social support is becoming recognized as a positive influence on health and health maintenance. Forms of support which bolster the patient's sense of personal efficacy should enhance the alcoholic's ability to cope with a specific stressor (i.e., overcoming his or her addiction). Patients reporting higher levels of social support during alcoholism treatment, especially support that enhances his or her self-esteem, should therefore demonstrate improved outcome compared to patients with lower levels. Sixty-one consecutive admissions to an inpatient alcoholism treatment program at a rural midwestern medical center completed an assessment of six forms of social support (Guidance, Reliable Alliance, Reassurance of Worth, Opportunity for Nurturance, Attachment, and Social Integration) in terms of support obtained from family and friends and from the treatment environment. For each patient, additional information concerning age, marital status, financial support, and previous alcohol-related hospitalizations was also obtained. Outcome of treatment was measured by readmission for an alcohol-related diagnosis within 1 year of discharge. Survival analysis found that reassurance of worth from family and friends and number of previous hospitalizations were independent and significant predictors of time to readmission. Higher levels of reassurance of worth or esteem support significantly lengthened time to readmission, with the reverse relationship found for number of previous hospitalizations. These results suggest that specific sources (family and friends) and forms (reassurance of worth) of social support are important to the recovering alcoholic and that the effect of social support on treatment outcome is independent of the alcoholic's history of prior treatment failure. Interventions or program modifications should be designed specifically to bolster these facets of social support rather than addressing more general forms of support.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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