Psychology ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 5-12-2017


The purpose of this study was to understand more about the relative contributions of different measures of social relationships to mental and physical health. This was done through secondary analysis of a clergy health intervention (n = 616), a population with unique professional and personal relationship characteristics. Hierarchal multiple regression was used in three steps to control for demographics, measures of perceived social relationships (e.g., social support, social engagement, social isolation, and relationship satisfaction), and whether or not clergy worked alone or with clergy colleagues. The results demonstrated that the relationship variables entered together, after controlling for demographics, were particularly important for explaining the variance of the four mental health outcomes including depression, positive mental health/flourishing, life satisfaction, and ministry satisfaction. Whether clergy worked alone or with clergy colleagues generally failed to explain additional variance after controlling for demographics and social relationships. The measures of social engagement and social isolation were both related to each of the four mental health outcomes. Item-level analysis of the social engagement measure suggested the unique importance of one item inquiring about support given to friends and family members. Several implications of this study include the importance of measuring multiple kinds of social relationships, a need for better measurement of reciprocity within social relationships, and possible behavioral interventions for clergy and other helping professionals that could target social relationships apart from professional obligations.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Dr. Bruce W. Smith

Second Committee Member

Dr. Kevin Vowles

Third Committee Member

Dr. David Witherington




Clergy Health, Mental Health, Social Support, Social Relationships, Social Engagement, Social Isolation, Colleagues

Document Type


Included in

Psychology Commons