Motivation and emotion/Book/2022/Social cure

The social cure:
What is the social cure and how can it be applied?


This chapter explores the social cure and how it can be applied to help mental health and well-being in adolescents and adults. Jointly, the social cure will be evaluated through research and theory. The social cure's practicability, the efficacy of its usefulness in maintaining and treating mental health cases as well as its legitimacy as a treatment regime will also be evaluated. In today's modern society, many factors are present that can effect[grammar?] our physical and mental health. Factors include bullying, low-socioeconomic status leading to poor health choices such as smoking and drinking, and psychological determinants such as anxiety and depression. The social cure seeks to alleviate many of these potential problems by illustrating the usefulness and effectiveness of social support for individuals at an interpersonal level. This chapter identifies the ways in which social cure can be an effective way of bolstering physical health, mental health and well-being and delves into reasons why social support is often not accepted or not sought after in the case of older adults. Analysis of the current literature will also shed light on the dimensions of social isolation, loneliness and depression, as the direct target for the social cure to strive towards aiding.

Many studies have been done which attempt to assess the role that social groups play on mental health and well-being. Studies, such as those by Cheung, Sani and Jetten[factual?], aim to assess the extent to which being a part of a social group can have positive effects on an individuals' mental health. Psychological science therefore seeks to determine whether there is enough evidence to support the active integration of individuals into groups as a way of bolstering mental health and well-being. The social cure can be characterised as the cumulative effects of an individuals[grammar?] integration into a social group/dynamic and the results of those interactions and integrations "curing" negative facets of mental health that individual may be experiencing.

Psychological science continues to produce theories which evaluate the usefulness and utility of social support, why social support is sometimes not wanted or not sought after and how the integration of these theories can help scientists create an effective social-support scale to help individuals of all ages. Theories, such as; social identity theory, social exchange theory and socioemotional selectivity theory aim to address the dimensions by which the relationships and interactions at an interpersonal level may be explained. The continued development and revision of these theories aim to encompass and explain as many different facets of social interaction, why we socialise, what the benefits are, how much we should socialise and the dynamics of the interactions themselves. The acceptance and seeking out of social support will also be looked into.

  Case No. 1

Sammy often finds himself alone at work during lunch time as he is new to the building he now works in. This has lead to Sammy being lonely during the working day aside from a few work-related interactions between colleagues which provide little for Sammy's loneliness. Some other workers notice Sammy's shyness and invite him to join their lunch-time group circle. Sammy feels noticed and included. Sammy's new group are engaging and bring Sammy into all the conversations which has made Sammy feel included and valued within the group. Sammy no longer feels lonely at work and occasionally pursues appropriate non-work-related joking and jestful gestures towards his new friends.

Focus questions:

  • What is the social cure?
  • How can the social cure be applied?
  • What are the benefits of social interactions?

What is the social cure?Edit

Figure 2. Depiction of friends providing social support.

The social cure is a construct by which social interactions lead to the improvement of physical and mental health through the bolstering effects of positive interpersonal connections. These connections are at both individual and group levels. The connections between the individual, personal friends, highly and distantly associated groups, organisations and social memberships all characterise a social connection and the opportunity to be socially supported. This has been shown in many studies which assess the effects of social interactions and have determined that being socially active at all ages is just as important as a good diet and exercise (Jetten et al., 2017).

Dynamics of the social cureEdit

Social identity Theory (SIT) is a person’s sense of who they are based on their group membership(s). Tajfel (1979) proposed that the groups (e.g. social class, family, football team etc.) which people belonged to were an important source of pride and self-esteem (Tajfel & Turner, 1979). Groups give us a sense of social identity: a sense of belonging to the social world (Tajfel & Turner, 1979). This promotes cohesion in group settings and can lead to a heightened sense of self identity, as personal views identify with both the group and ones place within the group.

Figure 3. Social Identity Theory Diagram

The usefulness of the affiliation that occurs between an individual and a group is dependent on a number of factors. These factors are illustrated to either absorb and welcome the individual into the group, allow the individual to be present but not highly influential and finally to allow the individual to identify with the group by their membership to the group being represented in a physical way (noted as a group member). The extent to which these factors create a stronger or more weak group identity with the individual, will directly effect[grammar?] their group identity and extend to the perceived social support and actual social support the individual will experience. Studies such as those by Haslam and colleagues, illustrate in a meta-analytic study, which indicates that social support and social integration are highly protective against mortality (Haslam et al., 2017). Social interactions and integration into groups as a protective factor can provide both perceived and actual social support and is a protective health behaviour (Jetten et al., 2017).

  Case No. 2

Susan has recently moved schools due to moving houses to a new state. This made her feel very anxious and nervous as she was leaving her friends behind and her old groups. She had her parents to talk to about the move and how it made her feel but they were very busy organising the transition across states and did not offer much support. She was highly involved with her old schools table tennis club and was very sad to leave. Upon starting at her new school, she was overwhelmed to learn that there was also a table tennis club at her new school. Susan quickly joined the club and made new friends which made her feel involved and a part of something again.

Importance of groupsEdit

Figure 4. Diagram of social exchange theory.

Social exchange theory (SET) illustrates the relationship that exists between groups and individuals. It reflects attitudes through a lens of cost-benefit analysis. In the context of the social cure, social exchange theory evaluates the rewards of effortful relationships between people to achieve more meaningful exchanges and a healthy social life. The benefits of effortful relationships follow as such that the more resources directed towards maintaining and building social relations, the higher reciprocity gains (Cook, Cheshire, Rice & Nakagawa, 2013). Effort therefore placed into relationships has the potential to build much happier and meaningful connections between groups and individuals. Social inclusion comes when a group or even an individual makes an effort to be inclusive and portray an outward appearance of warmness towards others. This can be used, in conjunction with seeking those who do not belong to a social group and are otherwise not included in regular social activity, to bring people out of social isolation and into and supportive group dynamic.

There are many benefits to intergroup contact. Intergroup contact has been offered as an important vehicle for prejudice and discrimination reduction (Sedikides et al., 1997). Research has also shown a significant relationship between group positive affect and a wide variety of group outcomes (e.g., behaviors, wellbeing, and performance) (Peñalver et al., 2020). The formation of groups provides an equal opportunity to benefit all group members. Group members can use the resources available to them (different individuals within the group) as ways of receiving and giving social support. Following social exchange theory, groups benefit the most when members contribute more to the group collective, as well as between individual group members.

Social networkingEdit

Figure 5. Instagram logo.


Social exchange theory in the context of online social interactions produces several key outcomes. Social networking sites (SNS) play a key role in the facilitation of social networking. Online interactions between groups and individuals provides perceived and real social support from any platform that facilitates communication. There is a substantial amount of evidence supporting the use of social networking sites as catalysts for positive social interactions (Collin et al., 2011). There is also evidence of a broad range of benefits to young people associated with the use of SNS. Benefits include: media literacy, formal educational outcomes, informal education and learning, creativity, individual identity and self-expression, strengthening social relationships, belonging and collective identity, building and strengthening communities, civic and political participation, self-efficacy and wellbeing (Collin et al., 2011). SNS such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all facilitate online social interactions (Oh, Ozkaya & LaRose, 2014). The results of a study by Oh and colleagues revealed that the amount of supportive interactions that people experienced online was associated with positive affect after the interaction, such that those who exchanged a greater amount of support with other members felt a greater level of positive affect (Oh, Ozkaya & LaRose, 2014). The study further specifies that those who felt higher positive effect after the online interactions were those who were able to receive the support they needed (Oh, Ozkaya & LaRose, 2014), further illustrating that the support must take the individual into consideration when being provided.

  Case No. 3 Jared has many friends online and often enjoys spending time talking in chatrooms and interacting with friends whilst playing games. However, Jared had an embarrassing moment at school hours before being in the group chat. When he asked for advice he was met with many jokes and although jestful comments by nature, left him feeling more embarrassed. One of Jared's friends invited him to a private chatroom where the two of them talked about the embarrassment. Jared felt much better after the one-on-one chat with his friend.

Review Question 1Edit

Which theory best suites two friends benefitting for supporting the other and exchange of listening sessions?

Social Identity
Social Inclusion
Social Exchange
Social listening

Applications of the social cureEdit

[Provide more detail]

Applications for adolescentsEdit

Figure 6. School playing yard.

Adolescents face a series of challenges in their younger years. School and social environments being the hardest times which require the most support which is given in a number of ways[grammar?]. A study by Richman and colleagues examines the effects of social support on students at risk of school failure. The study was aimed at assessing 8 facets of support: listening support, emotional support, emotional challenge, reality confirmation support, task appreciation support, task challenge support, tangible assistance support and personal assistance support (Richman, Rosenfeld & Bowen, 1998). These facets illustrate principles of social support through multiple dimensions and are a combination of actual and perceived support. The study followed middle and high school students receiving 8 different types of social support and the results of receiving these showed that not one stood out on its own. A combination of these 8 facets yielded more positive results than any single facet alone (Richman, Rosenfeld & Bowen, 1998).

  Case No. 4

Max has found that he is enjoying spending time alone playing video games in his room. This has had a negatvive effect on his school experience and his grades. His parents talk to the school and organise a tutoring class for him and some of his school friends. The combination of the support from teachers, support from friends and from his parents helped Max overcome his fear of failing and study well enough to pass his classes.

Applications for adultsEdit

Socioemotional selectivity theory (SST) is the perception of time and plays a fundamental role in the selection and pursuit of social goals. According to the theory, motivation for social interactions fall into 1 of 2 categories—those related to the acquisition of knowledge and those related to the regulation of emotion. When time is perceived as enduring, knowledge-related goals are prioritized. In contrast, when time is perceived as limited, emotional goals are prioritized (Carstensen, Isaacowitz & Charles, 1999). The goals that are assumed by the individual prior to accepting or searching for social interactions follow stages of assessment before the interaction is accepted as necessary and of value. The literature has illustrated convincingly that actual and perceived social support can aid in mental health and wellbeing. Following from this, many gaps exist in the literature which do not account for specific scenarios. SST would explain why some do not pursue, seek or accept social support when it is offered even when they are depressed, lonely and isolated. Because of this, the social cure faces an up-hill battle. Adolescents are more inclined to perceive time as enduring in contrast to older adults (Carstensen, Isaacowitz & Charles, 1999).  

Studies, such as those by Everard and colleagues illustrates the effects of social support on older adults. Results found that the extent to which older adults are included or inclusive of themselves within a social setting (community gatherings, sporting teams, club memberships) reflected a higher standard of both physical and mental health when compared with those who participated in low to no social events, settings (Everard et al., 2000). Many factors influence the amount and quality of social interaction. The connections to groups, such as clubs and teams, elicits a high-level group association and involvement as several factors are present (Everard et al., 2000). Regular and lasting social interaction; teams meet serval[spelling?] times a week for hours at a time. The quality of these interaction however are not guaranteed and simply being present does not guarantee that an exchange will occur between group members. This is alleviated to an extent, however, with perceived support being present as a way of bolstering the positive nature of group involvement. As is illustrated in many studies, Hefner and Eisenberg highlight that higher perceived quality of social support is strongly associated with a lower likelihood of depression, anxiety, suicidality and eating disorder, independent of frequency of social contacts, and other individual characteristics (Hefner & Eisenberg, 2009).

  Case No. 5 Gerard has a very slow and sedentary lifestyle and has progressed more so as his age increases. He does however spend every Monday, Thursday and Saturday evenings at his local bowling club where he gets to see and talk to his friends. Although his social interactions are less frequent than they used to be, the time he spends with friends is spent laughing and full of enjoyment.

Review Question 2Edit

Which facets on their own best illicit social support?

Listening Support
Emotional Support
Creative Support
Listening and Emotional


Figure 8. Social help.

The social cure has been illustrated to have varying effects on the mental health and well-being of both adolescents and adults. These effects, however, show that support for individuals in the form of social at a interpersonal level, can have positive effects. These effects include socialisation and development of friendships, social support, and the integration of individuals into a collective which gives them the group identification to support their ideas of self. Empirical research continues to move closer to fully understanding the extent and limitations of social effects for individuals who could benefit from the social cure. Current literature continues to strive towards understanding all facets of interpersonal relations which can provide support. Social support can have varying levels of positive effects on adolescents and adults. Its effects however can be seen and provided by anyone, not just the closest friends and family.

See alsoEdit


Carstensen, L. L., Isaacowitz, D. M., & Charles, S. T. (1999). Taking time seriously: A theory of socioemotional selectivity. American psychologist, 54(3), 165.

Cook, K. S., Cheshire, C., Rice, E. R., & Nakagawa, S. (2013). Social exchange theory. In Handbook of social psychology (pp. 61-88). Springer. DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-6772-0_3

Collin, P., Rahilly, K., Richardson, I. and Third, A. (2011) The benefits of social networking services. Cooperative Research Centre for Young People, Technology and Wellbeing, Melbourne, VIC.

Currie, C., Zanotti, C., Morgan, A., Currie, D., De Looze, M., Roberts, C., Samdal, O., Smith, O. R., & Barnekow, V. (2009). Social determinants of health and well-being among young people. Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study: international report from the, 2010, 271. [1]

Everard, K. M., Lach, H. W., Fisher, E. B., & Baum, M. C. (2000). Relationship of activity and social support to the functional health of older adults. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 55(4), S208-S212.

Hajak, V. L., Sardana, S., Verdeli, H., & Grimm, S. (2021). A systematic review of factors affecting mental health and well-being of asylum seekers and refugees in Germany. Frontiers in psychiatry, 12, 643704.

Haslam, S., McMahon, C., Cruwys, T., Haslam, C., Jetten, J., & Steffens, N. K. (2017). Social cure, what social cure? The propensity to underestimate the importance of social factors for health. Social Science & Medicine, 198.

Hefner, J., & Eisenberg, D. (2009). Social support and mental health among college students. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 79(4), 491-499.

Jetten, J., Haslam, S. A., Cruwys, T., Greenaway, K. H., Haslam, C., & Steffens, N. K. (2017). Advancing the social identity approach to health and well‐being: Progressing the social cure research agenda. European journal of social psychology, 47(7), 789-802.

Oh, H. J., Ozkaya, E., & LaRose, R. (2014). How does online social networking enhance life satisfaction? The relationships among online supportive interaction, affect, perceived social support, sense of community, and life satisfaction. Computers in Human Behavior, 30, 69-78.

Peñalver, J., Salanova, M., & Martínez, I. M. (2020). Group Positive Affect and Beyond: An Integrative Review and Future Research Agenda. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 17(20).

Richman, J. M., Rosenfeld, L. B., & Bowen, G. L. (1998). Social support for adolescents at risk of school failure. Social work, 43(4), 309-323.

Sani, F., Herrera, M., Wakefield, J. R., Boroch, O., & Gulyas, C. (2012). Comparing social contact and group identification as predictors of mental health. British Journal of Social Psychology, 51(4), 781-790.

Sedikides, C., Schopler, J., Insko, C.A., & Insko, C. (Eds.). (1997). Intergroup Cognition and Intergroup Behavior (1st ed.). Psychology Press.

Tajfel, H., Turner, J. C., Austin, W. G., & Worchel, S. (1979). An integrative theory of intergroup conflict. Organizational identity: A reader, 56(65), 9780203505984-9780203505916.

External linksEdit