Topic 1 Role of social support, family and working environment

Risk factors

Variables, circumstance or situation that INCREASE the likelihood of having a disease

Protective factors

Variables, circumstance or situation that DECREASE the likelihood of having a disease

According to an evidence review (Sax Institute for VicHealth, 2019) for adults and the general population:

  • Risk factors were social isolation and loneliness, insecure employment and unemployment, unsupportive work conditions, economic inequality, migration, homelessness, caregiving, physical health conditions, stressful events (including intimate partner violence and drought), and being a sexual minority.
  • Protective factors were employment, physical activity, strong social relationships and networks, diet and alcohol reduction, and green space.

Social support

Many studies (Leigh-Hunt et al., 2017) point to social support as a protective factor for mental health. In many cases, social relationships provide emotional support, instrumental help, improved decision-making, stress management, and enhanced motivation.

In contrast, social isolation or loneliness is considered a risk factor.


Family factors are considered protective for mental health. Positive parenting and family relationships, immediate and extended family support, high family cohesion, a positive family climate and parental involvement are key factors that contribute to resilience. Family support has a positive association with mental health and wellbeing (Khazaeian, Kariman, Ebadi, & Nasiri, 2017). Supportive family was a protective factor for wellbeing and psychosocial functioning for refugee children in the moderate-quality review by Marley and Mauki (2018).

Working environment

Battams et al. (2014) identified some variables of the work environment that are associated with poorer mental health and wellbeing: team environment factors include workplace bullying, low levels of social support, poor human relations and interpersonal conflict; work conditions include low skill discretion, low skill occupation, low decision latitude, job overload and high job demands; and work-home interference comprised time pressure and conflict between role demands.