The Health Benefits of Being Social
We reach out to friends to solve problems. We call them to share good news. We meet them for walks, for lunch, for card games. All the while, and with every interaction, we grow healthier – without stepping foot in a gym or counting a single calorie.
More than 20 years of research connect relationships to health status. We now know strong social connections are essential to our physical and emotional well-being. Conversely, poor social connectedness correlates to poor health outcomes.
These benefits and harms aren’t just observational. They’ve also been quantified by researchers using objective metrics.
One study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, assessed the association of social factors (social integration, social support, social strain) with biomarkers of physical health (C-reactive protein, blood pressure, waist circumference, body mass index). Among the findings: In an elderly population, social isolation had a greater impact on hypertension than risk factors such as diabetes.
In other words, good friends are good for you — especially in a time when the COVID-19 pandemic makes social connections and routines more tenuous.
Read on to learn more about the health benefits of strong social connections, the health risks of loneliness, and simple strategies you can share with patients to help them foster new friendships: