Want to Get Healthier? Strengthen your Social Ties
For many of us health buffs, we tend to obsessively focus on our diets or exercise regimens. We figure that if we eat a balanced meal with lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables, and we work out consistently, at least a few times a week, then we achieve a certain level of optimal health.
Recent research, however, suggests that there is another factor that is as important as taking care of our physical bodies. Although some studies have touched upon the importance of a strong social network in maintaining overall health, a new study, the largest of its kind, confirms that we live much longer if
we are strongly connected to friends, family, and community.
The New York Times recently reported on this study conducted at Brigham Young University, in which researches culled the results of 148 studies that examined the lives of over 300,000 people. The results were published in the Public Library of Science Medicine Journal, an open access publication,
under the title, â€œSocial Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-Analytic Review.â€ According to the NYT article, the review concluded that â€œpeople who have strong ties to family, friends or co-workers have a 50 percent lower risk of dying over a given period than those with fewer social connectionsâ€ and that â€œhaving few friends or weak social ties to the community is just as harmful to health as being an alcoholic or smoking nearly a pack of cigarettes a day.â€
Cecile Andrews, a professor who teaches at Stanford Universityâ€™s Health Improvement Program, delves further into the importance of social ties in a Stanford interview. Andrews notes that, aside from being important for a personâ€™s physical and mental health, strong social ties improves societal health on a large-scale. Andrews notes:
â€œTo paraphrase [Bowling Alone author] Putnam, â€˜the culture in which people talk to each other over the back fence is the culture in which people vote.â€™ Apparently, when you feel part of a group, youâ€™re more likely to contribute to it â€” such as by voting.â€
Andrews also suggests that for those who find themselves isolated with weak social ties, joining a group of interest is the best way to improve social health. To be beneficial, however, one must be actively involved in the group in which members meet face-to-face and talk. For the holiday season, Andrews advises that we spend less time shopping and more down time with friends and family.
[box type=”note”]So next time you find yourself obsessing over your calorie count or kicking yourself for missing a workout, remember that health is a multidimensional goal. Instead of going for a run, call up a friend and meet for coffee instead. It may just save your life.[/box]
This guest post is contributed by Lauren Bailey, who regularly writes for best online colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: blauren99 [@]gmail.com.