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First weeks out: Social support stability and health among formerly incarcerated men

NCJ Number
Social Science & Medicine Volume: 282 Dated: August 2021
Date Published
August 2021

The current study examined the effects of the stability of social support on physical and mental health in a sample of recently released men in Texas.


Social support has a lasting and robust impact on individuals' health, wellness, and longevity. Having social support and a reliable social network is especially important for individuals returning from prison. Upon release, individuals are often left with fragmented, if any, interpersonal relationships, which influences their overall health. When a released person's support network becomes erratic or unstable, they may be unlikely to successfully reintegrate. Additionally, the impediments and stressors associated with community reentry—particularly after a long prison sentence—impact released persons' ability to preserve their physical and mental health. Data for the current study were from the LoneStar Project, a longitudinal study of men released from prison, to examine the crucial nature of social support stability on health in a unique sample of reentering persons. Regression models were used to examine the effect of diverse domains of social support stability on self-rated physical and mental health in the first few weeks after prison release. Findings indicate that emotional and instrumental social support stability from family and friends is essential to positive self-assessments of mental health, but not physical health, among a group of recently incarcerated men. Results regarding the intricacies of the pathway between various stable support types and mental health are discussed. Relevant practical implications include the need for quality mental health care that must begin during the prison term to minimize stressors associated with psychological health upon reentry. Policy-related ramifications comprise a push to establish support programs for families to develop positive support outcomes for the released person during the reentry process, enabling family members to attain practical skills to increase family and individual well-being long term. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: August 1, 2021