Cultural Differences in the Link Between Supportive Relationships and Proinflammatory Cytokines

Jessica J. Chiang, Shimon Saphire-Bernstein, Heejung S. Kim, David K. Sherman, Shelley E. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Research suggests that inflammation may partially mediate the link between supportiveness of social relationships and physical health. However, cultural differences between Asians and European Americans in the nature of relationships and in seeking social support suggest that there may be cultural differences in the relation between supportive relationships and proinflammatory activity. One hundred and twenty-one young adult participants completed assessments of support from their close relationships (parents, romantic partner, and close friends) and provided oral mucosal transudate samples for assessment of the proinflammatory cytokines interleukin-6 (IL-6) and the type II soluble receptor for tumor necrosis factor-α (sTNFαRII). As predicted, more supportive relationships were related to lower levels of IL-6 among European Americans, but not among Asian Americans. There were no relations to sTNFαRII in either group. We conclude that associations between supportive relationships and inflammatory activity may differ in ways that reflect cultural differences in the construal of relationships and social support.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)511-520
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research and/or authorship of this article: National Science Foundation (BCS-0729532, BCS-1124552, and SES-0525713) and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.


  • close relationships
  • culture/ethnicity
  • relational factors in health
  • relationships
  • social support


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