Supporting Your Well-Being: Social Support and Integration

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5 min

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When was the last time you had a heart-to-heart chat with a friend or family member?

According to a 2018 study by Cigna, only 53 percent of Americans report having meaningful interactions with others on a daily basis. That’s a low percentage, especially when you consider our psychological health thrives on positive social interactions. Spending time with loved ones can reduce the risk of conditions such as depression, cardiovascular disease, and substance abuse.

Everyone needs to experience a certain degree of social support and social integration. According to Sheldon Cohen, Professor of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, these are two vital factors that affect psychological well-being: social support and social integration.

Psychology expert Kendra Cherry explains that social support comes from the network of friends and family members you can rely on when life is most challenging. This support comes in three forms:

  1. Emotional support is when loved ones help you cope with stress, loneliness, or similar issues. When you're worried about an upcoming meeting at work, a coworker might provide some words of reassurance. That’s emotional support in action.

  2. Instrumental support takes place when someone else cares for your physical needs. Maybe your sister provides instrumental support by giving you a ride to the ER when you're ill.

  3. Informational support is when someone offers you guidance or other useful information. A father who gives his son marriage advice is offering informational support.

When you participate in a variety of platonic or romantic relationships, you are socially integrated. Whether these interactions involve nightly chats with family members around the dinner table or weekly jogging sessions with friends, social integration reinforces your sense of identity and purpose.

When you want to reach a certain goal, reach out to friends who are on a similar path to find motivation. When you’re struggling with a problem, talk to knowledgeable people who can encourage and advise you. Studies show that strong social relationships during a crisis even can reduce the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and other similar conditions.

We’re wired to lift each other up.

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