The relationship between our physical health and our mental health has been well documented. Even though we come up with a new health craze or diet fad every day of the week it’s all too common for people to forget the most basic principles of their health.
We get lost in the complexities of “attempting” to live a healthier lifestyle, that we neglect the simple things that often make a lasting difference. Health doesn’t just apply to our physical bodies; our minds play a huge part in our overall health.
Social interaction isn’t often associated with health and longevity, and while everyone knows that socialising makes them feel good, few are aware that is has lasting health benefits. Not only does it contribute to a longer life, but immediate improvement of overall wellbeing.
How Does Social Interaction Promote A Longer Life?
When looking at the health of an individual, it is unfortunately the norm to catalogue our bodies into parts and fail to look at the body as a whole. Sometimes we’re so busy we forget that we are holistic beings and even though our physical bodies might be aging well – we might be in poor shape mentally. Sadly, our mental health often takes a back seat to our physical health.
There’s a strong focus on diet and exercise amongst the aging, and with good reason- those factors are critical to living longer. But don’t forget the other basic factors that have a significant effect on health. Social interaction is vital to living a longer life, and here’s why.
- Reduces stress and improves mental health. Stress is associated with a vast array of health problems, and is incredibly detrimental to a wide range of aspects of the human body. Stress floods your body with damaging hormones, increases heart rate, increases blood pressure, causing negative effects in the long and short term. Socialisation is a proven form of stress reduction, and will therefore work to alleviate the numerous problems often associated with stress. Socialisation is usually relaxing, and is a core individual need, contributing to both mental and physical wellbeing. In a recent study appearing in the annals family medicine, they gathered 193 seniors with depressive symptoms and provided either individualised physical activity or social visits for six consecutive months. Researchers found that social contact was just as effective as physical activity in improving mood and quality of life.
- Improved immune function. In addition to being a stress reducer, social interaction is associated with improved immune function. Meaning that your body will be able to better fight off diseases ranging from the common cold, to certain forms of cancer, and all because of social interaction. Not only that, but some studies have shown that a healthy social life may even lead to a reduced risk of dementia.
- A sense of belonging. The last, but certainly not least, aspect of social interaction that can lead to a longer life, as well as improved immediate health, is the support that being a member of a social group provides. Not only do friends and family provide logistical support, helping those in need to get proper care by offering transportation, meals and a hand to hold during operations. Emotional support can often make the difference between a very emotionally challenging health situation, and one that is more manageable. People with a supportive social structure are known for quicker recoveries and better emotional wellbeing during difficult health situations.
How Can Seniors Stay Connected?
- Join social clubs and sports teams
- Move into a retirement community
- Attend a church
- Learn to use the internet and social media
- Stay connected with family and friends
As we can see, there is a wide range of ways that a healthy social life contributes to a healthy life in general. Although socialising is not generally something people think of as associated with living a longer and healthier life, the evidence suggests that it plays a much larger role than is often suspected. No matter your age or current state of health, it is clear that social interactions can help you live a longer life, as well as a more fulfilled and meaningful one.