Evidence is presented on the relationship between psychosocial support (social contact and emotional intimacy) and changes in health status (physical, psychosocial and emotional functioning) experienced by 583 adults age 45-75 years living at home with a preexisting physical illness. Data were used from a panel study of physically disabled adults in London, England to provide a test of the buffer and direct effects hypotheses concerning social support and adverse life events. Controlling for age, sex and initial level of health status, the analyses showed that a low level of social contact was associated significantly with deterioration in psychosocial and emotional functioning only in the presence of adverse life events. A similar but non-significant pattern existed for physical functioning. A high level of social contact had a more protective effect on the physical functioning of respondents with arthritis or heart trouble who also reported depression, except among women age 45-64. Level of emotional intimacy was not a significant influence on reported health status change. Confiding relationships do not appear important for adults with preexisting illnesses who are not at significant risk of developing stress-related conditions. Social participation outside the home would help to reduce deterioration in psychosocial and emotional functioning, important outcomes for improving and maintaining quality of life.