The results are in. Studies have found that people with fulfilling relationships live longer, healthier lives. They’re also more likely to have a higher self-esteem, feel more valued, and take better care of themselves, promoting wellness, immunity and longevity.
Social connections may even influence longevity “in ways every bit as powerful as adequate sleep, a good diet, and not smoking.” In a 13-year study conducted on 2,761 people over the age of 65, tracking all areas of activity, it was found that those who spent time in social activities “fared just as well as those who spent the time exercising.” (No, this is not an excuse to stop exercising, just sharing the results of the study 😉 ).
On the other hand, a lack of social fulfillment is tied to depression, premature cognitive decline and increased mortality. Here are a few studies that demonstrate this link.
- In a study of more than 309,000 people, a lack of strong relationships “increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50% — roughly comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and greater than obesity and physical inactivity.”
- Another study in the British Medical Journal reported “older people who were least likely to attend church, travel, or seek out other social activities suffered 20% higher mortality from all causes than those who socialized the most.”
- Finally, a 12-year study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that “fewer social ties added up to a greater likelihood of cognitive impairment.”
(Have I convinced you to strengthen your social connections yet?)
Simply, people who are lonely and isolated show signs of a suppressed immune system, while people who feel connected to a select few close friends or a large group show signs of a strong immune system.
The benefit of boosting social interactions is crucial to our physical and mental health, as well as our immunity. But how is it that those around you help what’s going on inside of you?
Surrounding yourself with positive people can help reduce damaging levels of stress hormones, which can negatively impact digestive and immune function, as well as heart health and more.
But what if you don’t have many close ties?
While you may consider your strongest social ties to be to family and friends, groups, clubs and organizations offer great opportunities for connections that provide real health benefits. In addition, there’s also the connection we feel with pets or the nurturing of a garden or plant, which boost our health as well. Requiring no special equipment, specific settings or monetary expense, spending time with friends, family, pets or as a part of any social engagement, you can begin to reduce stress, nurture relationships and ultimately improve your health.
So, with your health and happiness in mind, get out there and socialize!
Do you recognize the link between your relationships and your health? I’d love to know, comment and share!