Assessing social support, Companionship, And distress: National institute of health (NIH) toolbox adult social relationship scales

Jill M. Cyranowski, Nicholas Zill, Rita Bode, Zeeshan Butt, Morgen A.R. Kelly, Paul A. Pilkonis, John M. Salsman, David Cella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


Objective: The quality of our daily social interactions-including perceptions of support, feelings of loneliness, and distress stemming from negative social exchanges-influence physical health and well-being. Despite the importance of social relationships, brief yet precise unidimensional scales that assess key aspects of social relationship quality are lacking. As part of the National Institute of Health (NIH) Toolbox for the Assessment of Neurological and Behavioral Function, we developed brief self-report scales designed to assess aspects of social support, companionship, and social distress across age cohorts. This article details the development and psychometric testing of the adult NIH Toolbox Social Relationship scales. Methods: Social relationship concepts were selected, and item sets were developed and revised based on expert feedback and literature review. Items were then tested across a community-dwelling U.S. Internet panel sample of adults aged 18 and above (N = 692) using traditional (classic) psychometric methods and item response theory approaches to identify items for inclusion in 5-8 item unidimensional scales. Finally, concurrent validity of the newly developed scales was evaluated with respect to their interrelationships with classic social relationship validation instruments. Results: Results provide support for the internal reliability and concurrent validity of resulting self-report scales assessing Emotional Support, Instrumental Support, Friendship, Loneliness, Perceived Rejection, and Perceived Hostility. Conclusion: These brief social relationship scales provide the pragmatic utility and enhanced precision needed to promote future epidemiological and social neuroscience research on the impact of social relationships on physical and emotional health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-301
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2013


  • Companionship
  • Loneliness
  • Social distress
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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