Do you make quality time with your family and friends a priority? We’re not talking about required annual holiday visits with distant relatives that can sometimes drive you nuts; we mean those people with whom you share the closest connections and tightest bonds. If you’re like most people, nurturing those types of relationships often falls by the wayside, but it shouldn’t. Find ways to share regular social time with family and friends, it actually makes you healthier in many different ways.
Healthy habits
Do your close friends and family affect the decisions you make about your health or nutrition? Researchers say they do. According to an Edelman Health Engagement Barometer survey, 46 percent of responders said their friends and family influence their health-related lifestyle choices. And 36 percent said friends and family are the most significant influence on their nutrition choices. If you’re interested in and committed to a wellness lifestyle, boost your chances of success by surrounding yourself regularly with likeminded friends and family.
People who maintain positive social support networks are likely to live longer than those that don’t. Studies show the risk of death for both men and women is double for those with the fewest social relationships. This was demonstrated in a 2001 study that showed patients with coronary artery disease who were socially isolated had 2.4 times more risk of cardiac—associated death than patients who had deep social connections.
Even when other factors are considered, like behaviors and socioeconomic status, this increase in risk of death seems to hold true.
A full social life has also been linked to less risk of chronic illness. Studies show people with low quality social lives also have a higher incidence of many conditions, including high blood pressure, cancer and cardiovascular disease. They also take longer to heal from injury and illness.
Poor social connections also correlate to impaired immune function, making them less resistant to disease. And finally, studies show marriage is correlated to lower rates of disease, with people who experience disrupted marriage or divorce showing higher rates of disease.
We’re all vulnerable to stress—there’s no denying its presence in daily life or the toll it takes on the body and mind. But research shows that people who have strong social support, or a community of friends and family they can turn to, are much less vulnerable to the pitfalls of stress. Whether this support comes from close friends or family, a structured support group or even an online community doesn’t seem to matter, if the support matches the person’s needs, it successfully reduces stress and its negative effects.