A ‘good space’ cannot last forever: perceived mechanisms explaining the role of social support as a health-promoting resource for caregivers in HIV-endemic South Africa
Despite a large body of evidence on the general “health-promoting” effects of social support, a lot less is understood about the processes mediating these effects. This analysis aimed to explore perceived mechanisms explaining the direct relationship between more social support and better mental health observed in a previous survey of primary caregivers of children living in an HIV-endemic, poor, urban community in South Africa (n = 1198). We conducted in-depth qualitative interviews with 24 caregivers who had participated in the survey. Findings of the thematic analysis point to psychological and behavioral processes, including factors associated with resilience; positive social control; perceived support availability; personal development and knowledge; and the maintenance of personal relationships to secure support for stressful times. Future research should explore the longer term benefits of human and social capital, deriving from social relations, for resilience and health, and how these may be shaped by cultural norms and worldviews.