Social support: factors to consider when designing studies that measure social support
Research into the area of social support has been associated with confusion and concern. Much of the previous work in this area has inherent and serious difficulties, especially with regard to measurement issues surrounding the concept and with study design. However, it is paramount that social support research is further developed to allow effective interventions by health care professionals to influence positive outcomes in patient care. It is only by adopting a rigorous approach to social support research that its full potential can be achieved, that it can result in the positive promotion of recovery from mental and physical illness and that it can then become an important tool for the health care professional. This paper aims to clarify research issues relating to social support definition, measurement and study design, including methodology, selection of instruments and analysis. Guidance will be provided concerning the important factors to consider to achieve a well-designed study to measure social support.