Social Comparisons and Adjustment Among Cardiac Patients1


  • 1

    This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH 42918). The first author was supported by a National Research Service Award from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (HL 07900), and the second author was partially supported by an NIMH Research Scientist Development Award (MH 00311).

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Vicki Helgeson, Department of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213.


The research examined social comparisons, affiliative choices, and their relation to adjustment among patients in a cardiac rehabilitation program. Consistent with Taylor and Lobel (1989), evaluative and affiliative processes diverged, with patients making downward evaluations (Wills, 1981) but choosing to affiliate with those who were better off than themselves. Consistent with predictions, downward evaluation was associated with better psychological adjustment, supporting the idea that these comparisons meet self-enhancement needs; upward affiliations were associated with hopefulness and inspiration, as well as with the perception that such comparisons provide information that is useful for improving one's own condition. The implications of evaluative comparison and affiliative activities for coping is discussed.