Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Effects of Self-Efficacy and Social Support on the Mental Health Conditions of Mutual-Aid Organization Members

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Effects of Self-Efficacy and Social Support on the Mental Health Conditions of Mutual-Aid Organization Members

Article excerpt

The present study examined the effects of self-efficacy and social support on the mental health of 65 members of a mutual-aid organization in Hong Kong. Participants had anxiety and depressive problems and had received cognitive-behavioral treatment before they joined the mutual-aid groups in the organization. A three-wave design was adopted, and participants filled in measures including the General Health Questionnaire, the State Anxiety Inventory, the Centre of Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, the General Self efficacy Scale, and the Medical Outcomes Study Social Support Survey. Regression analyses showed that residualized self efficacy was a strong predictor of the mental health variables. Effects of social support, both functional and structural, were mainly mediated by self-efficacy.

Anxiety and depressive dysfunctions have been the most prevalent forms of mental health problems in the community population. Research has shown that these problems can debilitate one's functioning, create a social burden for the family, and bring about economic and emotional costs to society (Bromberger & Costello, 1992; Friedmann, McDermut, Solomon, Ryan, Keitner & Miller, 1997).

Among the psycho-social variables, self-efficacy and social support have been considered key factors that have a bearing on these problems. Self-efficacy is an important concept in social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1977). It was originally defined as a rather specific type of expectancy concerned with one's beliefs in one's ability to perform a specific behavior or set of behaviors required to produce an outcome. However, it has been subsequently expanded to encompass a person's judgments of his or her capabilities to exercise control over events that affect their lives (Bandura, 1989; Maddux, 1995; Sherer & Adams,1983). Research has shown that low self-efficacy expectancies are an important feature of a variety of adjustment problems, including depression, anxiety problems, substance abuse and addictions (Bandura, 1995; Maddux & Meier, 1995; Williams, 1995).

As regards social support, Cohen and Wills (1985) have identified two major models to explain the effects of social support. The first model attributed a direct effect of social support to individuals. It posited that a social support network provides positive affect, a sense of predictability and stability in one's life situation, and a recognition of self worth. The second model conceptualized support as a stress buffer and supposes that adequate social support offsets or moderates the impact of stress on health. Research has demonstrated that social support protects people from the negative mental health consequences of stressful life events. In addition, many studies with clinically depressed patients have found that social support factors increased the initial success of treatment and contributed to maintenance of treatment gains (Basic Behavioral Science Task Force of the National Advisory Mental Health Council, 1996).

This study investigated the relations between changes in self-efficacy and social support, and the mental health of participants in a mutual-aid group in Hong Kong. Self efficacy and social support have been considered important mechanisms by which self-help organizations help their members. As Stewart (1990, p. 1064) pointed out, "self-help groups may be a means of enhanced self-care because (1) the social support they provide tends to maximize immunocompetence of persons undergoing stressful life events and (2) the knowledge, skills and attitudes of self efficacy that they foster will tend to make members more effective [individuals in the community]". It was hypothesized that increased self-efficacy and enhanced social support contributed to changes in self-help group members' adjustment. In addition, using regression analysis, the authors examined whether social support exerted direct effects on participants' mental health, or whether its effects were mediated by changes in self-efficacy. …

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