Social Relationships and Health: A Flashpoint for Health Policy

Debra Umberson, Jennifer Karas Montez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1563 Scopus citations


Social relationships—both quantity and quality—affect mental health, health behavior, physical health, and mortality risk. Sociologists have played a central role in establishing the link between social relationships and health outcomes, identifying explanations for this link, and discovering social variation (e.g., by gender and race) at the population level. Studies show that social relationships have short- and long-term effects on health, for better and for worse, and that these effects emerge in childhood and cascade throughout life to foster cumulative advantage or disadvantage in health. This article describes key research themes in the study of social relationships and health, and it highlights policy implications suggested by this research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S54-S66
JournalJournal of health and social behavior
Issue number1_suppl
StatePublished - Mar 1 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • cumulative disadvantage
  • relationships
  • social integration
  • social support
  • stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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