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The importance of social support

We all need to be able to turn to family and friends when we've got a problem. There is a strong link between the support we receive and our wellbeing. People who have little support from those around them have been shown to have greater depression and anxiety and lower quality of life.


What do we mean by support?


Support from our family and friends  is essential to our daily life. We all need help from time to time. Whether it’s a free babysitting service from parents, a chance to ‘offload’ to your friends over a glass of wine or two, or persuading your partner to crack on with the list of DIY tasks he’s been promising to get on with for the last six months! Whether it’s emotional or practical support we need, we all rely on our family and friends in a whole manner of different ways every single day.


Lower support for stepfamilies


Research has suggested that stepfamilies are more susceptible to problems with their support network than biological families. Often they can't rely on in-laws for example who stay loyal to the ex partner, leaving stepfamilies struggling for emotional and practical support from key family members. Also when individuals become part of a new stepfamily, they can easily lose touch with their old friends with whom they find they have less in common and who struggle to understand their new family committments.


Link between support and our wellbeing


There is a well recognised link between social support and our wellbeing, with more support linked to greater psychological wellbeing. Research has shown that if an individual has good social support they are likely to suffer from fewer depressive symptoms, have higher self esteem and self worth and be happier and more content with their lives.


In addition to emotional health, social support has also been shown to be linked with better physical health. The ability to be able to rely on a wide circle of family and friends can be thought of as a ‘buffer’ against stress, helping us cope better with the problems that life’s thrown at us. And while it’s important to be able to rely on our partners for support, it’s equally important that they are not our only shoulder to lean on. Other family members, such as parents, brothers, sisters and even adult children are also important to our social support network, as are our friends. Perhaps not surprisingly women typically have larger and more diverse social networks than men. But while this is a good thing when they have their support network in place, women find it much harder than men to cope when they haven’t got a strong support network.


So make sure you can turn to those around you when times are tough. Don't bottle up your feelings - if you feel you can't talk to your partner about something share it with a friend. Just being able to talk through your feelings can really help put things in perspective.