Associations Among Stress, Gender, Sources of Social Support, and Health in Emerging Adults

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This study aimed to examine how sources of social support intersect with stress and health by testing two theoretical models. Three relationship-specific sources of social support (family, friends, and romantic partners) and two health indicators (self-rated physical health and depressive symptoms) were investigated. The sample consisted of 636 emerging adults attending college (age range: 18–25). Results suggest that only support from family was a stress-buffer, in that it buffered the adverse association between stress and depressive symptoms. Holding stress constant, only support from family was related to self-rated physical health and only support from friends or romantic partners was associated with depressive symptoms. There were no gender differences in the mean levels of self-rated physical health and depressive symptoms. However, gender moderations were found, in that the positive relationship between friends support and physical health was observed only in women, that the association between friends support and depressive symptoms was greater in men than in women, and that family support buffered the negative relationship between stress and physical health only in men. Findings of this study suggest that the associations among stress, social support, and health vary by the sources of support, the health outcome, and gender.



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