Wellness: The Importance of Social Interaction
Over the past few decades, social scientists have collected evidence to explain the link between social relationships and overall health. People with strong social networks have significantly better health, including mental, physical and behavioral, than those who are more isolated.
Not only does the presence of social relationships impact health, but the quality of those relationships does as well. Do you feel emotionally supported by those around you or are they a source of conflict and stress? Do you have both informal relationships (spouse, friends) and formal relationships (religious institution, volunteer organizations)? And do you have relationships of varying types and strengths to support your different needs?
The most compelling evidence from social scientists involve the correlation between strong social ties in a community and increased life span. A study in 2001 found that positive social relationships also had the ability to reduce mortality risk for those with existing medical conditions. Social scientists used three main categories to explain how these relationships benefit your health: behavioral, psychosocial and physiological. The friends and family you are surrounded with constantly influence your health behaviors, such as eating, drinking and exercise habits. Furthermore, emotional support from your social groups improves your outlook on life and mental health, typically affecting other health behaviors. Lastly, lower stress levels benefit your immune, endocrine and cardiovascular systems and lower the wear and tear that stress can have on your body.
Despite being constantly connected through social media, people are feeling more isolated than ever. The desire to be surrounded by people who care for you is something that our screens cannot provide. The investment in healthy relationships can greatly benefit your health and should be seen as preventative medicine. What can you do to improve your relationships today?
Written by: Tori Parsons, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern