It seems that being connected with people confers health benefits related to better stress management. By "people," we mean family, friends, or co-workers who can help us solve problems and deal better with daily hardships. The working theory is that the more we can cope with stress, the more we boost the immune and nervous systems' responses that keep us healthy."Older people with better social networks with friends were less likely to die over a 10-year follow-up period than older people with poorer friend’s networks," said Lynne C Giles, lead author of the study, adding, "We looked at the number of close friends, the frequency of personal contact and the frequency of phone contact with those friends."
She added that people with highest network of friends were 'about 22 per cent less likely to die by the end of the 10-year period than those with the poorest network of friends.'
The findings showed that those with stronger relationships with friends survived longer than those who had good contact with family and children. A good friend’s support system was also found to help participants overcome personal crisis like the death of a spouse.
[Earthtimes.org - Jun 17, 2005]
Make more friends today!In the studies published between 1976 to 1994 that Dr. Berkman examined, researchers measured the quality of social attachments and related it to a broad range of illnesses, from ischemic heart disease, cancer, and cerebrovascular and circulatory disease, to respiratory diseases, gastrointestinal conditions, and other potential causes of death.
"These studies showed that in almost all cases, those individuals who were the most socially isolated and disconnected were clearly at increased risk of developing illnesses that led to death."
As to how social experience can get "inside the body," findings of several of the studies Dr. Berkman reviewed suggested that multiple biologic pathways are involved, two of which may be the immune and neuroendocrine systems.
In one of the studies that focused on cardiovascular reactivity, which the neuroendocrine system affects, study volunteers completed two laboratory tasks. Fifty percent of the subjects worked alone, the other half had a friend or "supportive partner" accompany them. Those in the latter group showed beneficially reduced heart rate and blood pressure. The researchers suggested the "friend's presence may have acted as a conditioned stimulus or a ‘safety signal,' altering neural input to the heart during challenge."
[Social Relationships, Connectedness, and Health: The Bonds that Heal]