Having Friends Reduces These Long-term Health Problems

Having Friends Reduces These Long-term Health Problems

Save that lunch date with the gang and make more plans to go bowling. Earlier in 2016, sciencedaily.com reported that the more quality social connections a person has, the healthier they will be.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill looked at the link between social relationships and physical conditions. Researchers considered factors that can lead to long-term health problems, including heart disease, stroke and cancer.

What was found? The larger and more supportive a person’s social web, the smaller their risk of having abdominal obesity, inflammation, and high blood pressure.

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Kathleen Mullan Harris, James Haar Distinguished Professor at UNC-Chapel Hill led the groundbreaking study and found that, in adolescence, those who were socially isolated had a greater risk of inflammation and abdominal obesity. The risk was prominent enough that it actually resulted in having the same effect as inactivity.

In middle age, things were a bit different but similar. Individuals with quality social connections fared better. It wasn’t the number of connections that mattered, but how supportive they could be in a time of stress: those without a social network they could rely on were at a greater risk of experiencing health problems.

And in old age, it was found that social isolation was more harmful to one’s health than diabetes in terms of developing and controlling hypertension in the body.

It isn’t surprising that being social is an important part of ours lives, but it is impressive to see just exactly how it can effect us, in the long run. The findings are ones that, researchers say, haven’t yet been pinpointed until now, and are points that grow on the knowledge that people who are less socially isolated in older age can withstand the emotional and physical trials of the later years better. This study just took things one step further.

In order to come to their conclusions, Harris and her team analyzed data from four nationally representative surveys of the U.S. population and evaluated dimensions of social relationships including social integration, social support and social strain.

They then studied the relationship between an individual’s social relationships and how they relate to four key markers: blood pressure, waist circumference, body mass index and circulating levels of C-reactive protein, which is a measure of systemic inflammation.

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So, now you know that it isn’t just all in your head. If being with your friends makes you feel good- as it should or maybe they aren’t good friends- there are scientific reasons behind it.

Yang Claire Yang, a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill commented on the findings saying, “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.”

Listen to these doctors orders (coming from a writer, but you get it): take time for a chat with those around you and to share your worries and joys.

It all sounds like a good excuse for some quality pedicure time with the ladies to me!

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