The health and wellness benefits of social contact are strongly suggested by several scientific studies. This is especially true among older adults but also for anyone at any age. Conversely social isolation can create significant problems including:
- Loneliness is also a risk factor for depression. This seems to be because social support seems to affect our genetic and environmental risk for mental illness, through a range of factors. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2921311/
- Increased morbidity (illness) and mortality (death), especially in older adults and more concerning is that social isolation is considered a major risk factor. 50% increased likelihood of survival for participants with stronger social relationships. http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316
- Social isolation increases blood pressure.
- Higher levels of interleukin-6. Interleukin-6 is an inflammatory molecule that is thought to be partly the cause of osteoporosis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, some cancers and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Some grandparents feel that caring for their grandchildren makes them healthier and more active. They experience a strong emotional bond and often lead a more active lifestyle, eat healthier meals, and may even reduce or stop smoking.
The power of community in creating wellness is shown up in the following interesting fact from the scientific data. If your friend’s, are overweight, you are more likely to be overweight compared to if your parents are overweight. The flip side of that is that you are more likely to have healthy habits if your friends do. So, the message is get healthy friends.
However, there is a bit of a caveat. You can have too many friends which can lead to “role strain.” This is an inability to cope with multiple social obligations and also to meet up to the expectations of your social role.
As is typical of any type of stress, being stressed out by the number of relationships in your life can also have physical effects. The stress of balancing multiple relationships instead of caring for yourself can cause issues with your sleeplessness, and energy among other physical effects. Worst case scenario is chronic stress which can lead to heart disease. Check out my blog on stress for more info on this massive topic. https://drwellness.co.nz/december-2017-breathing/
PLEASE comment below if you have experienced any detrimental effects of having too many or too few friends. Also please let us know your tips for culling an overwhelming list of friends or social engagements.