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Abstract

One hundred twenty-nine individuals with rheumatoid arthritis were interviewed, and their satisfaction with several aspects of social support was rated. Quantitative analyses showed that patients' overall support satisfaction was related to health care providers' ratings of their psychosocial adjustment, independent of patients' demographic characteristics, illness duration, disease activity, and functional disability. Furthermore, the relation between support satisfaction and psychosocial adjustment increased as a function of patients' level of disability, suggesting a stress-buffering function of support. Among the important qualitative findings emerging from content analyses of interview material was that disruptions in relationships with actual and potential support providers constituted a source of stress. However, several participants stated that the illness had actually strengthened valued relationships. Patients' views of helpful and unhelpful support gestures are also classified and discussed. Directions for future research on the support process are suggested.