A multidimensional approach to the assessment of social support and its relationship to adults' use of biomedical and alternative health care services
Several non-physical factors have been found to be predictive of health care utilization, including social support, perceived health status, health care orientation, age, and gender. Of these, social support is of particular interest because its body of literature is large, yet contains relatively few definitive studies. In addition, there exist very few studies examining the relationship of these variables to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) utilization. CAM has shown tremendous growth in the U.S. during the past decade, and at the same time, all health care has experienced a large increase in cost. This coupled with the “aging” of the U.S. population projected over the next two decades, makes it prudent to fully explore the factors influencing health care utilization, and health care expenditure. The purpose of this study was to examine non-physical factors that affect individuals' use of CAM and biomedical health care, with a focus on the multidimensional aspects of social support as they interact with perceived health status and health care orientation. The participants in this study consisted of a nationally representative sample of 998 online panel members age 18 years and older. They completed online surveys measuring social support, perceived health status, health care orientation and health care utilization. Results indicated that social support was predictive of CAM, but not biomedical health care utilization. Emotional support was predictive of CAM for women, but not for men. For women, support from family was related to mental well-being and physical health, while support from friends was predictive of mental well-being and physical well-being. Physical and mental well-being were also predictive of CAM. Implications of this study are that non-physical factors are important in predicting individuals' use of CAM. Since this is a fairly new research area in the U.S., there are many aspects of CAM utilization that should be studied, e.g. pathways to care, self-care, and issues related to the fact that most CAM is not covered by most health insurance. It will also be important to further explore the multidimensional aspects of social support, with a focus on functional support and the effect of gender differences.
Developmental psychology|Social psychology|Public health
Guarino, Mary Hoyt Akiyama, "A multidimensional approach to the assessment of social support and its relationship to adults' use of biomedical and alternative health care services" (2002). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3045125.