Is Receiving Social Support Costly for Those Higher in Subjective Socioeconomic Status?

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© 2020, International Society of Behavioral Medicine. Background: Although social support is generally thought to have positive consequences, this is not always the case. Receiving social support may threaten independence, which research has shown is more highly valued among those higher in socioeconomic status. As a result, support may be less strongly associated with positive outcomes for those higher in socioeconomic status (SES). Conversely, those lower in SES are more interdependent (Kraus, Piff, Mendoza‐Denton, Rheinschmidt, & Keltner, 2012; Stephens, Markus, & Phillips, 2014) and may, therefore, be less threatened when receiving social support. This study examined SES as a moderator of how daily received support (within and between persons) predicted both daily psychological stressor appraisals and diurnal cortisol. Method: Healthy undergraduate students (N = 128) participated in a 3-day study. Participants completed one or more evening diaries the first day of the study and additional questionnaires upon awakening, throughout the day, and at bedtime during the following 2 days. Support was measured each evening and stressor appraisals and cortisol were measured throughout the day. Results: As expected, for those who reported higher subjective SES, receiving more support than usual (within-person support) was associated with a flatter pattern of diurnal cortisol the next day. Although SES did not moderate the association of either within- or between-person support with stressor appraisals, the receipt of more support on average (between-person support) was associated with higher reported resources to cope. Conclusion: The findings demonstrate that there may be physiological costs—but not psychological costs—associated with the receipt of support for those higher in socioeconomic status.