In recent years, theorists and researchers have disagreed about the relationship between social support and mental health. Some believe that support is a direct provoking agent (i.e. lack of support constitutes strain), whereas others maintain that support is a vulnerability factor moderating the effect of life stress. Focusing on clinical depression, the article reviews the arguments and evidence supporting a strain hypothesis of social support versus a vulnerability hypothesis. Reanalyzing cross-classified data from 12 community studies of clinical depression, the study shows that the choice of model depends on the specification of functional form of the stress-clinical depression relationship. The linear probability specification suggests a vulnerability hypothesis, whereas the logit and probit specifications support a strain hypothesis. However, theoretical and statistical arguments tend to favor a logit or probit specification, and an additional analysis of data from Brown and Harris [Social Origins of Depression: A Study of Psychiatric Disorder in Women. The Free Press, New York, 1978] supports these arguments. Thus, the study concludes that the strain hypothesis of social support is more consistent with the available data.
This study was conducted as a social network analysis of a Facebook group for Swedish speaking persons (1310 members) with perceived brain fatigue after an illness or injury to the brain to address the lack of research examining social media and the potential value of on-line support for persons with mild acquired cognitive impairment.