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Social Support, Social Strain and Inflammation: Evidence from a National Longitudinal Study of U.S. Adults


Yang, Yang Claire; Schorpp, Kristen M.; & Harris, Kathleen Mullan (2014). Social Support, Social Strain and Inflammation: Evidence from a National Longitudinal Study of U.S. Adults. Social Science & Medicine, 107, 124-135. PMCID: PMC4028709


Social relationships have long been held to have powerful effects on health and survival, but it remains unclear whether such associations differ by function and domain of relationships over time and what biophysiological mechanisms underlie these links. This study addressed these gaps by examining the longitudinal associations of persistent relationship quality across a ten year span with a major indicator of immune function. Specifically, we examined how perceived social support and social strain from relationships with family, friends, and spouse at a prior point in time are associated with subsequent risks of inflammation, as assessed by overall inflammation burden comprised of five markers (C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, fibrinogen, E-selectin, and intracellular adhesion molecule-1) in a national longitudinal study of 647 adults from the Midlife Development in the United States (1995–2009). Results from multivariate regression analysis show that (1) support from family, friends, and spouse modestly protected against risks of inflammation; (2) family, friend, and total social strain substantially increased risks of inflammation; and (3) the negative associations of social strain were stronger than the positive associations of social support with inflammation. The findings highlight the importance of enriched conceptualizations, measures, and longitudinal analyses of both social and biological stress processes to elucidate the complex pathways linking social relationships to health and illness.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Social Science & Medicine


Yang, Yang Claire
Schorpp, Kristen M.
Harris, Kathleen Mullan