That weekly dinner with your best friend might be the highlight of your week and you certainly look forward to movie night with your spouse, but did you know that social relationships play a big role in your health? A new study has come out that may make you think twice about canceling girls' night out.
A recent study compiled the results of several other studies on lifespan, life quality and social relationships. The data covers more than seven years and 300,000 participants. Covering relationships with spouses, family, friends, coworkers, roommates and other social relationships, the study comes to a shocking conclusion. People who have close relationships with others are 50% more likely to live to longer than those who have weak or no social relationships.
Relationships with others provide a way to release stress, leading to a healthier immune system and better health overall. When you have people to talk to about your terrible new boss or your financial woes, they can commiserate with you or provide solutions that you didn't consider. All of these factors can lead to improved health and a longer life expectancy.
Having few relationships or weak social ties can even be dangerous to your health. A poor social life had a similar effect on participants as being obese, smoking or not exercising. Consider that the next time you're debating whether to go for a run or keep a dinner date with your spouse; the good relationship vibes you get from the dinner date might be better for you.
How the Statistics Affect You
If you consider yourself to be socially healthy, give yourself a pat on the back! Maintaining old close relationships and fostering new ones is a great investment into your long-term health. Stay in touch with old friends. Don't just call for superficial small talk; call to keep updated on each other's lives and provide support when it's needed.
Try not to fall into the trap of using social networking as your only source of relationships. It's easier to write a message on someone's page than it is to call or visit them, but it also feels much more impersonal. Making a conscious effort to reach out and call makes people feel appreciated and deepens your bond with them. Set up regular visits with your friends and family, as well. It can be difficult when you're working around busy schedules, but face-to-face time is essential for healthy relationships!
If you're married, be sure to make time for that relationship. It's easy to take your spouse for granted, but research has also tied a healthy marital relationship to better overall health. Make time to talk about your day and go on special dates instead of falling into a stagnant routine.
It's clear that the medical view of health is changing; you need to take care of your personal and social needs, not just your physical ones. If you're looking for an easy way to improve your health, deepen some personal relationships. You'll feel great and your health will benefit at the same time.