Article in HTML

Author(s): Anamika Modi Jain, Meeta Jha


Address: Psychometric laboratory, School of Studies in Psychology, Pt. Ravishankar Shukla University, Raipur, Chhattisgarh.

Published In:   Volume - 28,      Issue - 1,     Year - 2022

Cite this article:
Jain and Jha (2022). Social support as a protective factor against depressive symptoms: A review. Journal of Ravishankar University (Part-A: SOCIAL-SCIENCE), 28(1), pp. 93-103.

Social support as a protective factor against depressive symptoms: A review

Anamika Modi Jain1, Dr. Meeta Jha2

Psychometric laboratory, School of Studies in Psychology, Pt. Ravishankar Shukla University, Raipur, Chhattisgarh.


*Corresponding author:



INTRODUCTION – Social support means having friends and other people, including family, to turn to in times of need or crisis to give you a broader focus and positive self-image. Friend ships and other people, especially family, may provide you with a larger focus and a positive self-image in times of need or disaster. Social support improves one's quality of life and acts as a protective shield against adversity. Family, friends, coworkers, and others can provide you with physical and emotional assistance in the form of social support. It knows that you're part of a community that loves and cares for you, values you, and admires you. Social support enhances students' self-esteem, which, in turn, promotes their academic achievement and relieves their emotional exhaustion. Studies have also shown that family support can effectively help students cope with difficult situations, reduce mental stress, and prevent mental health problems, thereby maintaining their mental health development (Chang et al., 2020).

METHOD-A comprehensive systematic search of published literature and journal articles from Google Scholar, Pub Med, MEDLINE and EBSCO was taken. Search strategy specific to each data repository was used. During initial search 528 titles were retrieved and finally 30 empirical researches were selected based on the inclusion criteria.

RESULT Total 30 articles were selected and resulted that the theoretical efforts have also been conducted to explore the relation between social support and depression.

CONCLUSION-The conclusion drawn from the review depicted that perceived social support from family and friends were significantly related to lower depressive symptoms. Social support was found to be more protective against depressive symptoms.


Keywords Social support, College students, Depression


1.     Introduction

Social support is the physical emotional comfort given to us, by our family, friends, co-workers and others. It knows that we are part of a community of people who love and care for us, and value and think well of us. We all need people we can depend on during both the good times and the bad. Maintaining a healthy social support network is hard work and something that requires ongoing effort over time.

Social support is the belief and reality that one is cared for, has help to be had from different persons, and that one is part of a supportive social group. Those supportive resources may be emotional, tangible, informational or companionship. Social support can be measured as the perception that one has help, actual received help, or the degree to which someone is included in a social community. Help can come from many sources, inclusive of circle of relatives, friends, pets, businesses, coworkers, and so on. Social support has been studied across a huge range of disciplines which include psychology, diagnostics, sociology, nursing, public health and social work. Though, Social support has been linked to many advantages for both physical and intellectual fitness.

Two foremost models were proposed to describe link among social support and health the buffering assumption and the direct outcomes assumption (Wills1991). Gender and cultural differences in social support have additionally been observed. Social support systems are vital part of our life. Those systems consist of all people we consider and can go to for help, recommendation, or some other sort of emotional help. Social support system may be made from friends and family contributors people you support each have their own social support systems which can include, you, their direct assist professionalfamily members, friends, healthcare providers, co workers, Social workersteachersregional center staffall of whom they trust. Social support can be classified and assessed in numerous ways. There are four general functions of social support. (Wills, 1991, Wills, 1985 and Uchino 2004).


2.     Objective

To review systematically the characteristics of social support associated with protection from depression among college students.


3.     Methodology:

3.1.   Search strategy methods:

The depression was selected as the area of interest and a search was conducted on online database. Google scholar, Pub Med, MEDLINE, EBSCO to retrieve quantitative research article published from 2003-2020 and the search was confined to only English language. The search terms used “Social support and depression”, depressive conditions” depression among college students and those terms were searched both in the title and in the abstract. We included original research, prevalence and associated characteristics of depression in general in both community and primary care settings.

3.2.   Search strategy:

Factors affecting depression among college students [All Fields] "depression [Mesh] AND "College students"[Mesh]) AND "minor depression"[Mesh]) AND “early Adulthood"[Mesh]) AND "Social support and depression” [Mesh].

3.3.   Types of studies:

 Quantitative study, Cross sectional study and longitudinal study.

3.4.   Type of participants:

 College students / early adult / late adolescents, above residing in rural and urban area.

3.5.   Settings:

Rural area, urban area and studying in college and university.  

3.6.   Outcome:

The narrative review shows that social support as the protective factor of depression was very common among the college students and late adolescence or early adult stage, among college students and social support as protective factor against depression.



3.7.   Delivery of Intervention:

This narrative review was predetermined with the exploration of reviews related to the topic “Social support as a protective factor against depressive symptoms: A review” the search begins with the keywords. Online databases which were used for the exploration of review were Google scholar, Pub Med from the year 2001-2019. The search was confined to only English language other was excluded. Those phrases were searched both within the name and inside the abstract. We protected authentic researches (Observational and epidemiological studies) occurrence and related characteristics of youngster and social support and depression in younger population in both community and primary health care settings. Bibliography of retrieved papers changed into examined. 528 papers have been considered. 30 studies have been selected as they had been population based research analyzing social support and depression in well known population. The  remaining 498 papers were disqualified because of numerous reasons: the kind of paper; research of the psychometric properties of instruments, records excluded due to exceed limitation of the year, restrict to  particular age ranges, evaluation of interventions.


4.     Results:

Researcher Name /Year

Objectives of the Study

Study Design

Study Site

Sample Size

Sampling Technique 

Measures used


Kaltiala-Heino, (2001)

To study socio-demographic determinants of depression and the role of perceived social support.

Cross sectional


16464 adolescents aged 14-16


Finnish modification of the 13-item BDI. And PSSS

Perceived lack of social support increased depressive symptoms. Depression in both genders was linked to family structure. Among girls, depression correlated to parental education.

Stice, Ragan, and Randall, (2004)

The perceived social support deficit was expected to increase depression.

Longitudinal study


496 girls age range 11-15


Network of Relationships Inventory (Furman, 1996)

Perceived social support decreased the risk for depression but suggested that this effect may be specific to parental support during early adolescence.

Mansour and Dawani (2008)

Examined the relationship between perception of social support and perceived stress

Cross sectional


241 university students


Self-report questionnaires including the perceived social support scale and perceived stress scale.

Perceived stress had a negative correlation with perceived social support from family. The perceived social support from family was a better predictor of perceived life event as stressful situations than perceived social support from friends

Hefner and Eisenberg (2009)

Evaluated the relationship between mental health and social support.

Web based survey

Midwestern, America

1378 students response rate 57%



Found that students with lower quality social support were more likely to experience mental health problems.

Talaei, Fayyazi and Ardani (2009)

Investigated the correlation between depression and level of social support and self-esteem

Cross sectional


1200 University students age ranged 25-29

 Multi stage Random

BDI and Cassidy social support scale were used to the asses variables

Social support and self esteem were negatively associated with depression 57.2% of the participants had depression, among those 36.3% had mild, 14.4% moderate and 6.5% had severe depression.

Safree , Yasin and Dzulkifli (2010)

To examine the relationship between social support and psychological problems  depression, anxiety, and stress.

Cross sectional


120 students

Purposive sampling

SSB scale,  DASS

Revealed that there were significant negative relationship between social support and psychological problems suggesting that  higher the social support, lower the psychological problem

Simon and  Barrett (2010)

To see the relationship between no marital intimate (partner support or romantic) relation of male and female and mental health

Cross sectional

Miami, Florida

1,683   Young Adults , age range 18-23


CES-D; Radloff 1977).

Current involvements and recent breakups were more closely associated with women’s than men’s mental health; support and strain in an ongoing relationship were more closely associated with men’s than women’s emotional well-being.

Tajallia, sobhib and Ganbaripanahab (2010)

Identifying relationship between daily hassles, social supports and mental health

Cross sectional

Tehran Islamic Azad University,

262 students


Fleming social support Test (1982) and Goldberg GHQ (1972)

Daily hassles and mental health of university Students showed significant relation.

Auerbach, (2011), Canada

Goal of the current study was to examine the relationship amongst social support, stress, and depressive symptoms

Longitudinal study


258 adolescents


CES-D Scale (Radloff 1977), Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children Short Form (March 1997), Adolescent Life Event Questionnaire Revise (Hankin and Abramson 2002), and the SSS for Children and Adolescents (Harter 1985).

Low parental and classmate support may play a greater role in contributing to adolescent depression as compared to deficits in peer support.

Grav ,Hellzèn ,  Romild and Stordal (2011)

Association between perceived social support and depression in a general population in relation to gender and age.

Cross sectional survey


40659 male and females age range 20-89.


Self-rated perceived functional social support and Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale.

Social support was associated with depression; men have a preference of tangible support where as women preference of more emotional support.

Tahmasbipoura and

Taheri (2012)

Relationship between social support, mental health

Cross sectional

Shahid  Rajaee University

1242 university students


GHQ-28 questionnaire and social support scale (Stanford social scale)

Students with high social support had high mental health. Social support and mental health have significant and positive relationship

Mendieta et al.


To investigate the association between social support, loneliness and wellbeing.

Cross sectional


2042 participant


Questionnaire on the frequency of and satisfaction with social support (Hombrados Mendieta et al. 2012)

 Emotional support was significantly more effective in reducing loneliness and increased well-being; that partner support, family support, and support from friends, respectively, significantly decreased romantic loneliness, family loneliness, and social loneliness.

Ramezankhani et al. (2013)

Investigated the relationship between perceived social support, depression and perceived stress in university students.

Cross sectional


390 university students



Present study revealed a significant relationship between perceived social support and depression, that is individuals receiving less social support, reported higher depression.                            22.1% suffered from mild depression 23.3% moderate depression, 4.4% severe depression.

Barger et al.

(2014 )

To examine quality and quantity of social relationships are associated with depression

Cross sectional


12,286 Adults


A telephone systemic interview (CIDI) was used to measure severe depression, while a postal survey was used to evaluate depressive symptoms and social support dimensions.

Significant depression and depressive symptoms were linked to the perceived consistency and duration of social supports. Psychological well-being was related to a wide variety of social support dimensions.

Colman, (2014)

The aim of this research was to find variables that protect against the development or incidence of depression in early adulthood, as well as their experiences with stressors during this period.

Longitudinal study


N = 1,137 Age range 16-17


CIDI-SF: 9 items; Past-year; Major depressive

High levels of competence in adolescent were related to a lower risk of depression in early adulthood. When compared to those with low social support in adolescent, those with high social support were slightly less likely to become depressed. Physical exercise in adolescence was related to a lower risk of depression

Bartha, Hofmanna and Schoria (2014)

To evaluate the frequency of various forms of depression and their ties to education, material and social capital, and job/school satisfaction.

Cross sectional


9,066 males aged between 18 and 25 years



Prevalence of depression was 3.60% and 3.62% for sub-threshold. It reported that low social support and low satisfaction with social relation increased the depressive symptoms.


Wang,  Cai,          Qian and  Peng (2014)

To see thatSocial support has a moderating impact on the relationship between stress and depression in university students.

Cross sectional

Chongqing city China

632 under graduate students 315 female and 317 male, age range 18-22.


PSS Scale, Self rating depression scale. (Correlation analysis, Hierarchical regression )

Prevalence of depression was 18.7%.Social support moderated the correlation between stress and depression, according to hierarchical regression analysis. Undergraduate students who were under a lot of stress and had a poor degree of social support had higher depression levels than students who were under a lot of stress and had a lot of social support. 

Singh and Singh (2015)

To investigate the effect of parental bonding and social support on depression among adolescents

Cross Sectional


160 Adolescents, Age range 14-19.


Reynolds ADS (William Reynolds, 2002) and SSQ (Sarason, Levine, Basham and Sarason, 1983).

It was found that social support, father care and mother care were negatively contributing to adolescent depression.

Du,  King and Chu (2015)

To investigate connections among hope, social support, and depression.

Correlation  study

Hong Kong

384 Adolescents age rang 12-18


Children’s Hope Scale (Snyder et al., 1997). SS Scale (Zimet, Dahlem, Zimet and Farley, 1988), Rosenberg self-esteem scale (Rosenberg, 1965), CES-D; Andresen, Malmgren, Carter and Patrick, 1994; Radloff, 1977)

Hope and social support were associated with higher levels of personal and relational self-esteem, which were in turn related to decreased levels of depression.

Kugbey, Boadi and Atefoe (2015)

Examined the impact of social support from family, friends and significant others on the levels of depression,

Cross Sectional


165 university students


MSPSS. (Zimet, Dahlem, Zimet and Farley, 1988, DASS-21

Level of depression was significantly predicted by support from friends and others.

13.9% mild, 20.6% moderate,

7.3% severe,

15.3% extremely severe.

Zhang,  Yan,  Zhao and Youan (2014)

The association between perceived stress and depression was moderated by social support.

Cross sectional

East Asian Country



CES-D Scale and The perceived social support scale

The moderating effect of friend support between perceived stress and depression was found.

Dafaalla et al. (2016)

Find out how common depression is, and what role social support and quality of life can play in the development of depression, anxiety, and stress.

Cross sectional


487 medical Students

Clustered random sampling

MOS social support survey, DASS21

Only the positive social interaction domain and depression were found to have a significant relationship. 21% of students were depressed to a moderate degree.

Jayanti and Thirunavukarasu (2016)

To examine the relationship between perceived social support and depression among adolescent.

Case control study

India, Tamil Nadu.

1120 Adolescent



Adolescents with insufficient perceived social support have a 1.9 times higher risk of experiencing depression than those with appropriate perceived social support. According to the results, 45.7 percent of the youths had moderate depression, 25.4 percent had mild depression, 19.6 percent had major depression, and 9.3 percent had minor depression.

Bukhari and Afzal (2017)

To find the impact of perceived social support on psychological problems (depression, anxiety, and stress)

Cross sectional

Karachi, Pakistan

200 university students

Purposive sampling

DASS-21, anxiety and stress (Lovibond and lovibond, 1995). MSPSS  (Zimet et al. 1988)

Perceived social support was a significant negative predictor of depression and anxiety. Perceived social supports predicted 6% depression and 2% anxiety.58%, 69%, 40% have mild to severe level of depression.

Zamani,   Dehkordi,   and Shahry (2017)

To determine the status of perceived social support and related personal and family characteristics.

Cross sectional


763 university students

Cluster random sampling

Vaux’s social support questionnaire

Depression and stress are expected to   significantly reduce by ensuring social support and reducing sources of stress in the educational environment.

Crutcher, Moran and Covassin (2018)

To examine relationship between social support from athletes, family, and other athletic trainers and depressive symptom



204 Athletic training students


PSS Scale, Scale and CES-D


In athletic training students, increased satisfaction with social support may reduce stress perceptions and depression.

Loannou, Kassianos and Symeou (2018)

To test the mediating role of self-esteem in the relationship between social support and depressive symptoms

Cross Sectional

Observational study


N=334  young adults in aged 17–26 (78% female)


CES-D scale (Radloff, 1977), Multidimensional social support scale

The perception of social support from family and friends was linked to lower depressive symptoms. It was discovered that social support is more effective against depressive symptoms.

 Ren, Qin,  Zhang and  Zhang


Present study aimed to understand the debate over relationship between social support and depression

Longitudinal study


2834 students of adolescence aged range 13-17


CDI; Kovacs, 2003) and Perceived School Climate scale for teacher social support (which defined as emotional support) and peers social support.

Depressive symptoms led to a reduction in expected social support, but not from teachers. Teacher and peer encouragement is integrally related and mutually influential.

 Lee et al. (2019)

Examine the association of positive and negative social support with the risk of depressive symptoms

Large scale Cohort study


21208 adult men and women


CES-D and self constructed social support scale

Negative social support provoked the depressive symptoms and positive social support reduced the depressive symptoms. Inverse relationship was found between both social support and depressive symptoms.

Alsubaie, Stain, Webster and  Wadman (2019)

Impact of sources of social support on student wellbeing

Cross sectional


461 Students (82% female, mean age 20.62 years).


PHQ-9, social support MPSS

Prevalence of depressive symptoms was 33%.


Social support from family, and friends was a significant predictor of depressive symptoms.   Quality of life (psychological) was significantly predicted by social support from family and friends. Sources of social support represented a valuable resource for universities in protecting the mental health of stud dents. significant negative correlation  was found between all sources of social support and  depression.


5.     Conclusion

This review consist 30 studies which show the relationship between   social support and depression. Social support, in general relates to the physical and emotional comfort a person receives while comparing between the genders, it was found that depression in both genders linked to family structure. Among the girls, depression correlated to parental, while studies conducted among students. Current involvements and recent breakups are more closely associated with women’s than men’s mental health, support and strain in an ongoing relationship are more closely associated with men’s than women’s emotional wellbeing. Whereas studies conducted among students showed that students with lower quality social support from family or friends were more likely to experience mental health problems and daily hassles and mental health of university students showed a significant relation. It is also seen that no parental and classmate support may play a greater role in contributing depression as compared to deficit in peer support. Social support has been shown to promote mental health and act as a buffer against stressful life events. Social support is derived from a network of people drawn from family, friends and community. A lack of social supports as a determinant of mental health problems including depression symptoms among the college going students and has a negative impact on their quality of life. Consistent findings from these cross-sectional studies reveal the important role of social support on students’ wellbeing. A study on college student found students who had higher social support had lowest rate of stress and wellbeing and adjust to college life. This is supported by a study showing social support from friends is a significant predictor of depression in college students.

The conclusion drawn from the review depicted that perceived social support from family and friends were significantly related to lower depressive symptoms. Social support was found to be more protective against depressive symptoms.



Alsubaie, M. M., Stain, H. J., Webster, L. A. D. & Wadman, R. (2019). The role of sources of social support on depression and quality of life for university students. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 24 (4), 484-496.

Auerbach, R. P., Bigda-Peyton, J. S., Eberhart, N. K., Webb, C. A. & Ho M-HR. (2011). Conceptualizing the prospective relationship between social support, stress and depressive symptoms among adolescents. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. 39(4), 475-87.

Barger, D. S., Burgy, M. N. & Barth, J. (2014). Social relationship correlates of major depressive disorder and depressive symptoms in Switzerland, nationally representative cross sectional study, BMC Public Health, 14, 273.

Bartha, J., Hofmanna, K. & Schoria, D. (2014). Depression in early adulthood, prevalence and psychosocial correlates among young Swiss men, The European Journal of Medical Science, 144(13945), 1-8.

Bukhari, S. R. & Afzal, F. (2017). Perceived Social Support predicts Psychological Problems among University Students, International Journal of Indian Psychology, 4(2), 18-27. 

Colman, I., Zeng, Y., McMartin, S. E., Naicker, K., Ataullahjan, A. & Weeks, M. (2014). Protective factors against depression during the transition from adolescence to adulthood, Findings from a national Canadian cohort. Preventive Medicine. 65, 28-32.

Crutcher, B., Ryan, N., Moran, R. N. & Covassin, T. (2018). Examining the relationship between social support satisfaction and perceived stress and depression in athletic training students. Athletic Training Education Journal. 13(2), 168–174.

Dafaalla, M., Farah, A., Bashir, S., Khalil, A., Abdulhamid, R., & Abdalrahman, I. et al. (2016). Depression, anxiety, and stress in Sudanese medical students: A cross sectional study on role of quality of life and social support. American Journal of Educational Research, 4 (13).

Du, H., King, B. R. & Samuel, K. W. (2015). Hope, social support, and depression among Hong Kong youth, personal and relational self-esteem as mediators. Journal of Psychology, Health & Medicine, 21(8), 936-931.DOI, 10.1080/13548506.2015.1127397.

Grav, S. Hellzèn, O., Romild, U. & Stordal, E. (2011). Association between social support and depression in the general population, the HUNT study, a cross sectional survey, Journal of Clinical Nursing, 21(12), 111-120.

Hefner, J. & Eisenberg, D. (2009). Social Support and Mental Health among College Student, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry - Wiley Online Library Jayanthi, P. & Thirunavukarasu

M. (2016). Perceived Social Support - A Risk Factor for Depression among Adolescents: An Analytical Study, ICCR Journal of Nursing Research, 1(1), 29-34                                                                                                                 

Kaltiala-Heino,  R., Rimpela,  M., Rantanen, P. & Laippala, P. (2001). Adolescent depression, The role of discontinuities in life course and social support Journal of Affective Disorders, 64(2-3), 155-66.

Kugbey, N., Boadi, S. O. & Atefoe, E. A. (2015). The Influence of social support on the levels of depression, anxiety and stress among students in Ghana. Journal of Education and Practice, 6(25), 135-140.

Lee, Y. H., Juhwan, Oh, Kawachi, I., Heo, J., Kim, S., Lee, J. K. & Kang, D. (2019). Positive and negative social support and depressive symptoms according to economic status among adults in Korea, cross-sectional results from the health examinees-gem study. British Medical Journal Open, e023036. Doi, 10.1136/ bmjopen-2018-023036.

Loannou, M., Kassianos, A. P. & Symeou, M. (2019). Coping with depressive symptoms in young adults, Perceived social support protects against depressive symptoms only under moderate levels of stress. Clinical and Health Psychology, 9, 2780. 

Mansour, A. M., H. & Dawani, H. A. (2008). Social support and stress among university students in Jordan. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 6, 442–450. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 113(1), 155–159.

Mendieta, H. I., Martin, A. M. & Jacinto, L. G. (2013). The Relationship between Social Support, Loneliness and Subjective Well-Being in a Spanish Sample from a Multidimensional Perspective. Social Indicators Research 114 (3), 17.DOI:10.1007/s11205-012-0187-5

Ramezankhani, A., Gharlipour, Z., Heydarabadi, A. B., Tavassoli, E., Motalebi, M., Barekati, H., Gilasi, H. R., Ranjbar, T. K. & Moosavi, S., A. (2013). Perceived social support, depression, and perceived stress in university students. Journal of Paramedical Sciences (JPS) Autumn, 4(4), 31-36.

Ren, P., Qin, X., Zhang, Y. & Zhang, R. (2018). Is Social Support a Cause or Consequence of Depression? A Longitudinal Study of Adolescents. Journal Frontiers in Psychology, 9 (1634), 1-8.                                                                                                                                             

Safree, A. M., Yasin, M. & Dzulkifli, M., A. (2010). The Relationship between Support and Psychological Problems among Students. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 1(3), 110-116.

Simon, W. R. & Barrett, E. A. (2010). Non-marital romantic relationships and mental health in early adulthood, does the association differ for women and men? Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 51 (2) 168 –182.

Singh, N. & Singh, S. (2015). Depression among adolescents as a function of social support and parental bonding. International Journal in Management and Social Science, 3(9), 1-9.

Stice, E., Ragan, J. & Randall, P. (2004). Prospective relations between social support anddepression, differential direction of effects for parent and peer support?

Tajallia, P., Sobhib, A. & Ganbaripanahab, A. (2010).The relationship between hassles and social support on mental health of university students, Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences, 5, 99–103.

Talaei, A., Fayyazi, M. R. B. & Ardani, A. R. (2009). Depression and its correlation with         self-esteem and social support among Iranian University students. Iran Journal of Psychiatry, 4, 17-22.

Tahmasbipour, N. & Taheri,  A. (2012). Survey on the relation between social support and mental health in students Shahid  Rajaee University. Procedia- Social and Behavioral Sciences, 47, 5 – 9.                                                 

Wang, X., Cai, L., Qian, J. & Peng. (2014). Social support moderates stress effects depression, International Journal of mental Health System, 19(4), 509-520.

Zamani, A. F., Dehkordi, F., R. & Shahry P. (2017). Perceived social support among students of medical sciences, Electron Physician, 9(6), 4479–4488.

Zhang, B., Yan, X., Zhao, F. & Youan, F. (2014). The relationship between perceived stressand adolescent depression, the roles of social support and gender.  Journal of Social Indicators Research, 123(2), 501-518.



Related Images:

Recomonded Articles:

Popular Articles