September 30, 2005
Researchers in the current study sought to examine social support and maladaptive coping as predictors of HIV-related health symptoms in a primarily low-income and diverse sample of HIV/AIDS patients with respect to gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.
To study coping strategies, social support and HIV-related health symptoms, 65 men and women were assessed at baseline. Three, six and 12 months after completing baseline assessments, the researchers assessed physical health symptoms associated with HIV disease.
After controlling for demographic characteristics, CD4 T-cell count, and baseline HIV-related health symptoms, the authors found that participants reporting lower increase in HIV-related health symptoms used less venting (expressing emotional distress) as a strategy for coping with the disease. But when they added satisfaction with social support to the model, the use of this coping strategy was no longer significant, and individuals reporting more satisfying social support were more likely to report lower increase in their HIV-related health symptoms, indicating that social support is a strong predictor of health outcomes over time independent of coping style and baseline health status.
"These findings provide further evidence that social support can buffer deleterious health outcomes among individuals with a chronic illness," the authors concluded. "Future research needs to examine mediating pathways that can explain this relationship."