Why being social helps us to survive and thrive?
Medical science is becoming increasingly aware of the impacts our emotional health has on our physical health, whereby such conditions as depression and loneliness are rightfully getting more attention. This is especially true as we age.
With this in mind, researchers now realise that the social connections with people around us have tangible health benefits. According to a new study, researchers believe that these benefits can continue to be beneficial even as these social networks change over time. In other words, even if a person is not socially active, the benefits of having social connections can still be achieved when these relationships are developed later in life.
“People have some control over their social lives, so it is encouraging to find that something many people find enjoyable – socialising with others – can benefit their cognitive and physical health,” said study author Patricia A. Thomas, Ph.D., of the Population Research Center at University of Texas at Austin.
In his book The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor delves in to the links between ‘happiness’ and ‘surviving and thriving with social investment’.
Our need for social support isn’t just in our heads. Evolutionary psychologists explain that the innate need to affiliate and form social bonds has been literally wired into our biology. When we make a positive social connection, the pleasure-inducing hormone oxytocin is released into our bloodstream, immediately reducing anxiety and improving concentration and focus. Each social connection also bolsters our cardiovascular, neuroendocrine, and immune systems, so that the more connections we make over time, the better we function.
We have such a biological need for social support, our bodies can literally malfunction without it. For instance, lack of social contact can add 30 points to an adult’s blood pressure reading.
In his seminal book Loneliness, University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo compiled more than thirty years’ worth of research to convincingly show that a dearth of social connections is actually just as deadly as certain diseases. Naturally, it causes psychological harm as well; it shouldn’t surprise you that a national survey of 24,000 workers found that men and women with few social ties were 2-3 times more likely to suffer from major depressions than people with strong social bonds.
When we enjoy strong social support, on the other hand, we can accomplish impressive feats of resilience, and even extend the length of our lives. One study found that people who received emotional support during the six months after a heart attack were three times more likely to survive.
Another found that participating in a breast cancer support group actually double women’s life expectancy after surgery. In fact, researchers have found that social support has as much effect on life expectancy as smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, and regular physical activity.
As one set of doctors put it, “When launching a life raft, the prudent survivalist will not toss food overboard while retaining the deck furniture. If someone must jettison a part of life, time with a friend should be last on the list: He or she needs that connection to live.” When set adrift, it seems those of us who hold on to our raftmates, not just our rafts, are the ones who will stay afloat.
– Surviving and thriving with social investment, The Happiness Advantage. By Shawn Achor. Read book
– Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection. By John T. Cacioppo, William Patrick. Read book
– Louise F. Pendry L, Salvatore J. Individual and social benefits of online discussion forums. Computers in Human Behavior Volume 50, September 2015, Pages 211–220. Read more
– Healthcare Hacks. The Benefits of Being Socially Active, November 27, 2012. By Fred Lee. Read article
– NRMA, The importance of being social. Read article
Learn more insights on the health benefits of being social
Volume three “The Why’s of Goodness” provides a different perspective on the normal issues relating to your health, such as exercise, nutrition and relaxation. Everything we do in life has some form of influence to our subconscious, and these are great examples. Chapter 3.2 focuses on the importance of staying social, and how making new friends and keeping in touch with existing friends does wonders for you mental well-being and health. Read more on Volume 3.
Volume 3 is titled “Relax your mind + Boost your memory”, comprising 36 pages the volume covers three informative chapters on why you need a good night’s sleep, why being social is good for your health and why being generous after 60 is good for you.
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