Social interaction enhances health
Published: Monday, October 15, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 15, 2012 16:10
Smoking, drinking, avoiding exercise and practicing unhealthy eating habits are common health risks that affect society. However, research suggests that social interaction is as equally important as the aforementioned health hazards and deserves the acknowledgement that likewise it can be harmful to one’s health if abused.
A study published in PLOS Medicine journal supports this assertion, stating: “people who have strong ties to family, friends or coworkers have a 50 percent lower risk of dying over a given period than those with fewer social connections.”
Along with increasing longevity, social interaction has also proven to enhance the physical fitness of individuals who intermingle often.
Researchers at Brigham Young University have found that “having 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.”
Their study continued, summarizing weak social ties as being “more harmful than not exercising and twice as risky as being obese.”
The idea behind holding social interaction in such high regard is not to label certain individuals as loners or draw negative attention to introversion. In fact, introverts can be perfectly healthy due to the fact that they are “energized by solitary,” as Psychology Today words it.
Frequently, introverts are characterized as shy, or even that they have a personality disorder or social phobia.
Most introverts, however, are fully capable of socializing—they simply choose not to. An article in Psychology Today explains, “the self-styled introvert can be more empathic and interpersonally connected than his or her outgoing counterparts.”
Nevertheless, if you know you are an introvert, make the effort to surround yourself with other people -- peers, family, friends or even friendly strangers -- at least once every day.
Forming, building and maintaining social relationships can help reduce your stress levels, build your confidence by providing emotional, psychological, and physical support and improve your positive outlook on life, according to a 2004 study published in American Psychologist.
Instead of setting up camp in your room -- becoming best friends with Netflix or gossiping via Facebook -- try scheduling social outings into your daily life.
Grab a bite to eat in a campus dining center between classes, give a passerby a compliment, make frequent trips to the wellness center and call up mom just to chat.
Once you realize that being around other people makes you feel more accepted, energetic and happy, you will understand how social interaction truly benefits your health.
One of Brigham Young’s psychology professors, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, puts a strong emphasis on the importance of social relationships, saying that they “encourage us to eat healthy, get exercise, get more sleep, see a doctor,” and be much healthier individuals overall.