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J Natl Med Assoc. 2009 Mar;101(3):243-50.

The association between perceived social support and health among patients at a free urban clinic.

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Department of Family Medicine, Primary Care Research Institute, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York 14215, USA.



This study examines the association between perceived social support and the prevalence of physical and mental health conditions among adult patients of an urban free medical clinic.


Patients (n = 289) completed a health risk assessment (HRA) questionnaire that addressed a number of medical and social issues, including perceived social support and whether patients had been told they had certain health conditions. Among these questions were 2 validated instruments: the PRIME-MD for mental health disorder assessment and CAGE for alcohol risk assessment. A deidentified database of responses was analyzed for statistical associations between perceived social support and these health conditions.


Among those with insufficient perceived social support there were higher rates of having physician-measured overweight/obesity, a heart condition, a previous heart attack, anxiety, and depression. The association between perceived social support and cardiovascular health existed among women but not among men. Higher income, not smoking, and consumption of high-fiber foods were associated with sufficient social support.


Perceiving sufficient social support was associated with lower rates of several mental and physical health disorders. Social support may act as a barrier or buffer to poor health caused by the stressful living conditions often experienced by low-income underinsured people. Males and females may experience this social support buffering differently.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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