Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Arts in General Psychology (MAGP)



NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Lori Lange

Second Advisor

Dr. Jody Nicholson

Department Chair

Dr. Michael Toglia

College Dean

Dr. Barbara A. Hetrick


Health related outcomes for individuals with chronic symptoms of illness can be influenced by complex, socio-emotional processes. The primary interest of this study was to determine whether perceived social support lessens the negative emotional appraisals of illness experience (e.g. anger, fear, hostile interpretations of illness), and the role of these emotional appraisals in health outcomes for those diagnosed either with a conventional chronic illness (e.g. diabetes, arthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or a functional somatic syndrome (e.g. fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel). Data for this study were collected from a series of four surveys administered online, which included measures of perceived social support (MSPSS), emotional representations of illness (IPQ-R), and health outcomes (SF-36). The sample included 151 participants (129 Female, 22 Male), all of whom experienced chronic somatic symptoms for at least 3 months, with 57 classified as having a conventional diagnosis (CD) and 94 with a functional somatic syndrome (FSS). The results suggest a potential mechanism for the buffering effect of social support, such that those with higher levels of social support reported lower degrees of emotional representations. After controlling for demographic and illness-related variables, social support was a significant predictor of emotional representations of illness. Emotional appraisals of physical symptoms predicted a majority of the health dimensions of the SF-36; including social functioning, role limitations due to physical problems and emotional problems, emotional well-being, vitality, and overall perception of general health. The pattern of findings underscores the need to consider the influence of psychosocial processes on both psychological and physical well-being in populations adjusting to chronic illness.