From Social Alienation to Physical Health Concerns

Depression and Alcohol Proneness as Disconnection Pathways


It is well established that social isolation is a robust predictor of poor health outcomes, both mental and physical. Yet, little is known about whether and how personality characteristics related to social isolation (e.g., social alienation) affect health. Grounded in relational-cultural theory, the present study examined depression and alcohol proneness as parallel mechanisms underlying the association between social alienation and physical health concerns. As hypothesized, social alienation was positively associated with depression and alcohol proneness, and depression and alcohol proneness were both positively associated with health concerns. Notably, social alienation was indirectly associated with health concerns through depression for both men and women and through alcohol proneness for only men. Findings suggest depression, alcohol proneness, and gender play critical roles in understanding the association between social alienation and physical health. These findings support a growing body of social cure-focused research showing that the quality of social connections can have a profound effect on mental and physical health. Such knowledge can inform clinical assessments, interventions, and policies in a variety of healthcare settings.

Author Biographies

Benjamin F. Shepherd, Nova Southeastern University

Benjamin F. Shepherd, M.Ed., is a PhD student in Clinical Psychology at Nova Southeastern University. Working alongside his mentor, Dr. Paula Brochu, he aims to increase awareness and understanding of the association between stigma, health, and intersectionality through research and advocacy. In particular, he is interested in examining the experiences, coping strategies, and well-being of individuals possessing concealable stigmatized identities, with a focus on sexual and gender minority populations.

Paula M. Brochu, Nova Southeastern University

Paula M. Brochu, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Clinical and School Psychology at Nova Southeastern University's College of Psychology. She is a social psychologist with interests in prejudice, stereotyping, discrimination, and stigma. Much of her research focuses on weight bias, or negative attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors directed toward fat people or those who live in larger bodies. Specifically, she examines the processes underlying the expression of anti-fat bias, the consequences of weight stigma on health and well-being, and the efficacy of interventions to reduce weight bias.

Personality Assessment