How friends and family can affect your health
The concept of social support and its effects on our health has been the focus of psychosocial epidemiology studies for more than 25 years. These studies show that having high quality relationships and strong social ties can protect us from diseases and extend our lives.
Here are some facts that link the quality of your social support to your health.
- Adults with very limited or no social contact show a 30 point increase in blood pressure readings.
- Each positive connection we make boosts our cardiovascular, neuroendocrine, and immune systems, so that the more connections we make over time, the better we function.
- People with healthy social support show a lowered likelihood of experiencing age related cognitive decline.
- Women with breast cancer who join a support group post-surgery have a higher life expectancy that those who withdraw from any form of social interaction.
- Social isolation was identified as an independent major risk factor for all-cause mortality.
- Those who have lower interactions were 1.5 times more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease.
- Feelings of social usefulness in the elderly population showed a lower rate of mortality.
- A strong social support significantly increases our ability to cope with stress, lowering the chances of succumbing to depression or other anxiety disorders.
- Being surrounded by loving and supportive family and friends can strengthen the immune system and reduce inflammation in our systems which may lead to other diseases.
- People who receive love and care from family and friends 6 months after a heart attack, are 3 times more likely to recover and survive.
- When we connect positively with people, the pleasure inducing hormone Oxytocin is released into our bloodstream causing an immediate comforting sensation which lowers our anxiety levels and improves our focus.
We need each other to Live
These studies prove that the quality of our social relationships, and the emotional support we give and receive to and from our social networks do affect our health, for better or for worse.
It follows that to live a life a life of mental and physical wellness, it is to our advantage if we devote more time to cultivating meaningful relationships. It is obvious that as social creatures, a feeling of security, acceptance and belonging are all requirements for a healthy outlook in life, which is needed to keep our bodies strong and healthy.
“Life doesn't make any sense without interdependence. We need each other, and the sooner we learn that, the better for us all” - Erik Erikson
Many people who suffer from illness become reclusive, and avoid or even avoid the help of other people. However, as these studies show, it could literally save your life if you open yourself up to receiving support from family and friends. For those who are on the path to recovery, the best way to regain your strength is to increase your interactions. It will give you the positive infusion you need to bolster your will to live, which has a direct effect on the speed of your recovery.
- American Journal of Epidemiology: Social Support and Physical Health
- NCBI: Social and Emotional Support and its Implication for Health
- Personality Research: Relations between social support and physical health
- Wikipedia: Social Support
The Happiness Advantage
You can read more about the importance of social support for your health - and other ways strong social ties contribute to your well-being and happiness - in the book “The Happiness Advantage” by Harvard graduate Shawn Achor.
Get the Book today