coping skills, depression, heart failure, social support



  1. Graven, Lucinda J. MSN, ARNP
  2. Grant, Joan DSN


Background: Approximately 50% of individuals living with heart failure (HF) experience depressive symptoms. Social support has been found to have a positive influence on depressive symptoms in individuals with HF.


Objective: The purposes of this review were to (1) examine recent literature regarding the impact of social support on depressive symptoms in individuals with HF, (2) synthesize findings across those studies, (3) assess potential areas of future research regarding social support, and (4) identify implications for nursing practice.


Methods: An integrative review of current empirical literature was conducted through a search of the CINAHL and PsycARTICLES computerized databases for the period of January 2000 to December 2010. The key words used for the search were heart failure, social support, coping, depressive symptoms, and depression.


Results: Fifteen studies matched inclusion criteria. Eleven of these studies found social support to prevent or reduce depressive symptoms. Emotional and tangible support as coping resources or strategies, the perceived availability of or satisfaction with support, and assistance with problem solving positively influenced depressive symptoms. Perceived emotional and tangible support and the presence and availability of social networks lessened depression in patients with HF. Findings from 4 studies on the impact of social support were not statistically significant. Different definitions of social support and a variety of measurement instruments used made it difficult to generalize study findings.


Conclusions: Social support seems to positively impact and influence the psychological well-being of those with HF. Additional research is needed to identify specific characteristics of support that is effective in influencing depressive symptoms in this population. Furthermore, more research is needed regarding how factors such as ethnicity influence depressive symptoms and depression.