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Category: Science

health_benefits_social_interaction

Health Benefits of Social Interaction

According to the World Health Organization, the biggest threats to our health, globally, are now chronic degenerative conditions, not infectious diseases. What a transition! As opposed to various epidemics of diseases that were so common in our history, what is now threatening health, across the planet,  is chronic degenerative inflammatory conditions – diseases that we most fear. These include things like Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and autoimmune conditions as well.

So it makes sense that we must do everything we possibly can, from a lifestyle choice perspective, to keep ourselves healthy and lower our risk for these chronic degenerative conditions.

No doubt lifestyle issues like diet and exercise have received a lot of press, but what we don’t hear about so often is the importance of social interaction.

In a new report (recently published by the Department of Sociology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), researchers, drawing on data from four large national studies of the United States population, evaluated the role of social integration versus social isolation in terms of impact on things like C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation), blood pressure, waist circumference, and body mass index.

The researchers found that those individuals who experienced a higher degree of social interaction, meaning interaction with other people, had a dramatically lower risk of detrimental changes in the various measurements. Lack of social connections was associated with a significantly increased risk for inflammation, becoming overweight, and even developing high blood pressure.

In fact, this study revealed that the risk of high blood pressure brought on by social isolation was actually higher than the risk of developing high blood pressure by virtue of being a diabetic!

Co-author of the study Yang Claire Yang,  a professor at the University of North Carolina, commented on the study by stating:

Our analysis makes it clear that doctors, clinicians, and other health workers should redouble their efforts to help the public understand how important strong social bonds are throughout the course of all of our lives.

So the message is clear. We’ve got to recognize that there is yet another important lifestyle choice that can pave the way for health and disease resistance in our future, and that is interacting with other people. I would suspect that this means actual face-to-face interaction as opposed to spending time each day on your computer doing social media. While Facebook is entertaining, I think what the authors have demonstrated is the importance of, for example, joining a book club, a hobby club, biking with a group of friends, traveling with others, sharing meals with friends, and various other forms of actual person-to-person interaction.

  • Lynn Dell

    We need to create our respective “blue zones” if we aren’t living in one already.

  • Daniel Bizier

    Yes I agree; after spending a couple of hours with friends I feel different, better, healthier. I am also fortunate to live in one of the “blue zones” in Costa Rica.

  • Jude

    What is a blue zone?

    • RicardoRichard

      Regions where people live long lives and what’s more they are physically and mentally active. There’s some of such zones in different parts on Earth

  • kate gilmore

    Thank you for bringing this topic forward. I find that human bonds and interaction provide a sort of insulation cushion for stress and are nourishing.

  • lynette mayo

    I read that loneliness is an ‘Immune System Assassin’ !

  • joanna

    I totally agree. Here in Cambridge, U.K., we have lots of sports, political and Meetup groups, but I can easily see that people living on large housing estates with maybe limited transport, can feel isolated and depressed and this can lead to comfort eating, alcohol abuse and social decline. I can see that over time, all this could lead to increased risk of cognitive decline.

  • ESTELLE O

    Since I’ve become physically disabled & use a walker, it hard to make friends and keep friends.
    am experiencing prejudice. I used to make and keep a lot of friends easily before, when I was younger and didnt have osteoarthritis and pain.

  • Community and social interaction is so important and it’s great to see research supporting this! I work with anxious individuals and many have pyroluria, a genetic social anxiety condition, and social interaction is challenging and
    uncomfortable for them. The wonderful thing is that zinc, vitamin B6, evening primrose oil and a few other nutrients can change this so they are transformed into social butterflies!

  • Nancy Sutton

    I wonder about introverts? I am very happy with my own company, lots of interesting things to do, etc…. prefer to be alone a lot. Running errands, I love interacting with people, but am exhausted when I get home. I saw that intro’s vs extro’s is 15% vs 85% roughly speaking. Could this health benefit for socializing be true for introverts, i.e., more is better ? Or do extroverts just suffer more anxiety, sadness, etc. when alone …. which natural introverts don’t feel ? Or?

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