Social Support

A vital part of the health message

Peter N. Landless & Zeno L. Charles-Marcel
Social Support
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez ?? on Unsplash

I am in college and learning about the importance of positive interpersonal relationships and social support for good health. Our church talks much about diet and health; isn’t it time to emphasize relationships?

The consumption of a balanced vegetarian (plant-based) diet is an important component of the Adventist health message. Diet is not the only important aspect of a healthy lifestyle, although it tends to eclipse other healthful lifestyle habits—possibly because our food is visible and measurable. This can result in vigorous conversations and even divisive arguments. We sacrifice a portion of the clear benefit of healthful, measured eating habits when we allow food wars to divide us.

You are absolutely correct: we must emphasize the health-giving benefits of positive connectedness and social support—relationships. In the early 1950s Abraham Maslow proposed a hierarchy of human needs emphasizing that love is as essential to the whole growth of the human being as are vitamins, minerals, and proteins. Our world church has especially focused on the health benefits of connectedness since 2002, when General Conference Health Ministries launched a health initiative using the acronym CELEBRATIONS®: Choices, Exercise, Liquids, the Environment, Belief, Rest, Air, Temperance, Integrity, Optimism, Nutrition, Social Support.1 Notice that social support is one of the vital components.

Over time, social science researchers have been writing more and more about the benefits of positive social connection. They are not alone. Cancer researchers have demonstrated that women in remission from breast cancer are less likely to suffer recurrence of the disease if they enjoy and experience strong social support from family and friends. Epidemiological, psychological, sociological, and health studies continue to reinforce the importance and wholistic benefits of relationships in our lives in heart disease. Prominent lifestyle researchers2 are emphasizing love (connectedness) as medicine, reinforcing healthy behaviors!

Healthy relationships and connectedness are foundational in the building of resilience especially in young people. Resilience is the capacity to maintain competent functioning in the face of major life stressors and is a key focus of our church’s Youth Alive3 initiative, encouraging youth to live a wholistically healthy life free of at-risk behaviors. The critical element to developing resilience is cultivating a close relationship with at least one individual of significance (parent-child; student-teacher; spouse-spouse).

A personal, empowering relationship with God unleashes the potential for profound significance in relationships with others. As we fulfill the Great Commission of going into all the world to preach, teach, and heal, Ellen White encourages us to nurture relationships as we follow Christ’s method in reaching people: “If we would humble ourselves before God, and be kind and courteous and tenderhearted and pitiful, there would be one hundred conversions to the truth where now there is only one.”4

Meaningful, loving relationships and connectedness are evidence of our relationship with Jesus as He confirmed, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35, KJV). And we will enjoy life to the full!




4 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 9, p. 189.

Peter N. Landless & Zeno L. Charles-Marcel