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Spinal Cord. 2012 Feb;50(2):94-106. doi: 10.1038/sc.2011.116. Epub 2011 Oct 18.

The role of social support and social skills in people with spinal cord injury--a systematic review of the literature.

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Swiss Paraplegic Research (SPF), Nottwil, Switzerland.



Systematic literature review.


To examine the current knowledge of how social support and social skills are associated with aspects of health, functioning and quality of life of persons living with spinal cord injury (SCI).


A systematic literature review was conducted. The literature search was carried out in Pubmed, PsycINFO, ERIC (Educational Resources Information Centre), CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature), Embase and SSCI (Social Sciences Citation Index). Publications were identified according to predefined eligibility criteria; study qualities were evaluated, study results extracted and a narrative synthesis was compiled.


In all, 58 publications about social support and SCI were included. Social support was positively related to physical and mental health, pain, coping, adjustment and life satisfaction. Social skills were assessed in 11 studies: social problem solving (n=7), assertiveness (n=3), verbal communication (n=1) and self-monitoring (n=1) were examined. Effective problem-solving skills were related to better mental health outcomes, health prevention behavior and less secondary conditions. Assertiveness was related to higher depression in rehabilitation setting. Interventions targeted at social support or social skills were scarcely studied. Only one study examined the relationship between social skills and social support in SCI.


Social support is associated with better health and functioning in individuals with SCI. However, the full range of social skills has not yet been studied in people with SCI. Furthermore, the role of social skills in relation to social support, health and functioning remains unclear. Better understanding of social skills and social support in SCI could facilitate the development of targeted and effective interventions to enhance functioning of people with SCI.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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