Social Support

On this page, we provide concepts and measures of social support developed by our faculty and scholars. 

  • Medical Outcomes Study (MOS) Social Support Survey developed for patients with chronic conditions (also in Spanish)
  • Conceptual framework of social support for Korean and Chinese immigrants
  • Measures of social support in Korean, Chinese, Spanish, and English and tested in these groups.

Medical Outcomes Study (MOS) Social Support Survey

The MOS Social Support Survey is a 19-item multidimensional survey developed for patients with chronic conditions.  Four subscales (and one overall index) measure the availability of support if needed.

  • Emotional/informational support:
  • Tangible support:
  • Affectionate support:
  • Positive social interaction:
  • Overall social support:
  • Someone to confide in, to listen to you, and to provide advice and information
  • Some to help with daily chores, prepare meals, or drive you if needed
  • Someone to show you love and affection, hug you, and make you feel wanted
  • Someone to have a good time, do enjoyable things with, get together with for relaxation
  • Availability of people to provide support if needed such as emotional support and tangible help

This paper describes the development and testing of the survey in over 4,000 patients with chronic conditions.

Citation: Sherbourne CD and Stewart AL. The MOS Social Support Survey.  Soc Sci Med, 1991;32(6):705-714. PMID:2035047

A description of the survey and scoring instructions can be downloaded, as well as the original survey and a Spanish translation developed for community-dwelling Spanish speaking Latinas in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Description and Scoring Instructions: MOS Social Support Survey
MOS Social Support Survey: English MOS Social Support Survey: Spanish

Conceptual Framework: Korean and Chinese Immigrants

A series of mixed-methods studies were conducted to define concepts and develop measures of social support relevant to ethnic minority older adults. 

Drs. Sabrina Wong and Grace Yoo developed a conceptual framework of social support relevant to older Korean and Chinese immigrants using qualitative methods (Wong et al., 2005).  The framework reflects several differences from more traditional social support frameworks in terms of the domains and the definitions of each domain.  








Language support

Cultural differences

Financial support from adult children and social security

Material support such as carrying groceries, getting a ride


Practical advice for common and impersonal need, e.g., how to choose a doctor, social security benefit information

Kept personal and family needs to themselves (e.g., advice for family conflict) 



Seldom sought support as they kept their negative feelings to themselves


Sharing activities with others

Served as a substitute for direct emotional support, a distraction from negative emotions


Help interpreting when out in public, especially for Korean Americans because fewer people speak Korean


Citation: Wong ST, Yoo GJ, Stewart AL. Examining the types of social support and the actual sources of support in older Chinese and Korean immigrants. Int J Aging Hum Dev. 2005;61(2):105-21.  PMID:1616288  

The authors also conducted an in-depth analysis of older Chinese and Korean immigrants to explore the process of becoming bicultural and changing expectations of their adult children to meet social support needs. 

Citation: Wong ST, Yoo GJ, Stewart AL. The changing meaning of family support among older Chinese and Korean immigrants. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2006;61(1):S4-9.  PMID:16399949

Measures of Social Support in Korean and Chinese

Initial Social Support Survey (Version1):  Because no available social support measure adequately reflected the issues raised in the qualitative research, they developed a new social support survey to reflect the conceptual framework, adapted from several existing instruments and including newly written items.  A 27-item pilot survey was fielded in a sample of 200 older Koreans and Chinese using exploratory factor analytic techniques.  The final 22-item survey reflected four domains: language (4 items); information/advice (7 items); financial (4 items); and emotional/companionship (7 items).  Construct validity was explored by examining associations between social support and psychological well-being.  

Citation: Wong ST, Yoo GJ, Stewart AL. An empirical evaluation of social support and psychological well-being in older Chinese and Korean immigrants. Ethn Health. 2007 Jan;12(1):43-67. PMID:17132584

Social Support Survey Meeting Invariance Criteria (Version 2):  In a new study, the authors started with the original 27-item survey, omitted Language Support, and added back in Tangible Support.  The 22-item pilot survey was administered in English, Spanish, Cantonese and Mandarin to a sample of 1,137 Chinese, African American, Latina, and white women age 50 and older.  Fifteen items representing four factors met all criteria of multitrait scaling.  An 8-item subset assessing the same four dimensions demonstrated factorial invariance across four race/ethnic/language groups.  The published article describes all 22 items, the 15 items meeting multitrait scaling criteria, and the 8 items meeting invariance criteria.

Citation: Wong ST, Nordstokke D, Gregorich S, Pérez-Stable EJ. Measurement of social support across women from four ethnic groups: evidence of factorial invariance. J Cross Cult Gerontol. 2010;25(1):45-58.  PMCID: PMC2836242

The eight items are summarized in English, Spanish, and Chinese including the instructions and response choices.