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Toward Refining the Stress-Buffering Model: Comparing Social Support and Friendship Satisfaction


Social relations may provide young adults with both direct health benefits and indirect benefits by mitigating stress. Research on social relations generally has focused on the benefits of social support, and little is known about whether having satisfying friendships, independent of receiving social support, may confer benefits to mood and health. In this study, survey data from 1,851 undergraduates was analyzed to determine whether social support and friendship satisfaction have a direct or moderated relationship with mental (e.g., anxiety and depressive symptoms) and physical health (e.g., number and frequency of physical symptoms). Results suggested that both friendship satisfaction and social support made independent contributions to mental and physical health, but friendship satisfaction was more consistently and strongly associated with the outcome measures than was social support. Although stress--both overall and academic- specific--was associated with poorer mental and physical health, individuals with high levels of social support or friendship satisfaction were protected from some of the associations between stress and mental health. Results highlight the importance of both social support and friendship satisfaction in the lives of college students and suggest that friendship satisfaction may be an important pathway through which social ties influence psychological well-being and health.

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