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10 - Social Support and Physical Health across the Life Span: Socioemotional Influences

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 September 2009

Frieder R. Lang
Martin Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenburg, Germany
Karen L. Fingerman
Purdue University, Indiana
Susan Turk Charles
Department of Psychology and Social Behavior, University of California, Irvine, 3340 Social Ecology II, Irvine, CA 92697-7085
Shahrzad Mavandadi
Department of Psychology and Social Behavior, University of California, Irvine, 3340 Social Ecology II, Irvine, CA 92697-7085
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The socioemotional health model posits that emotion regulation is the central mechanism mediating the link between social relationships and physical health. The four tenets of the model maintain that: (1) emotions and social relationships share a complex interplay developed over the millennia; (2) emotion regulation is the central mechanism linking social relationships with health; (3) emotion regulation includes physiological, cognitive, and behavioral processes, all three of which influence health, and (4) socioemotional processes affect health throughout the life span, but will be most evident at the very beginning and end of the life cycle when people are most physically vulnerable. We present the model and provide an overview of how socioemotional processes influence health throughout the life span via physiological, cognitive, and behavioral pathways.

Magazines and newspaper columns often highlight stories of people surviving seemingly insurmountable physical hardships: people who live with a terminal illness longer than any physician had anticipated, or someone lost for weeks in the wilderness with little to eat or drink who, miraculously, is found alive. When queried about their success, many of these people mention the presence or thoughts of a loved one as a critical factor in their survival. Viktor Frankl wrote poignantly about this subject, describing how thoughts of his wife sustained him during his internment at a Nazi concentration camp: “In a last violent protest against the hopelessness of imminent death, I sensed my spirit piercing through the enveloping gloom…. The guard passed by, insulting me, and once again I communed with my beloved. More and more I felt that she was present, that she was with me” (1959, pp. 51–52).

Growing Together
Personal Relationships Across the Life Span
, pp. 240 - 267
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2003

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