Long-Term Health Is Effected By Bonds with Others

By Mario De Siati (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/

It’s important for a person to have social ties, as much for their overall mental health as it is for their physical health. Bonding can be as crucial to one’s health as exercise and healthy eating.

The Study

Dr. Yang Claire Yang, co-author of the study and a professor at the University of North Carolina said, “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 our lives.”

For this study, the investigational team analyzed information from four surveys involving Americans who ranged in age from adolescents to seniors. Firstly, researchers looked at social integration, social support and social strain. They evaluated four indicators of health including: blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and systemic inflammation. All of these health conditions are linked to cancer, heart disease, stroke and various other diseases.

The more social bonds and ties a person has at a young age, the better their health early and later in life is, researchers found.

The results of the study were published in the January 4, 2016 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Another co-author of the study, Kathleen Mullan Harris, also a professor at the University of North Carolina said, “Based on these findings, it should be as important to encourage adolescents and young adults to build broad social relationships and social skills for interacting with others, as it is to eat healthy and be physically active.”

In past research, it was shown that older adults live longer lives if they have a larger social network. This new study suggests social bonds can reduce health risks in the early stages of life.
In teenagers, social isolation is the greatest risk factor for inflammation. Additionally, researchers found when teenagers had a strong social network, it can help protect against abdominal obesity.

In senior citizens, social isolation is a bigger threat than diabetes in the development and treatment of hypertension.

During middle adulthood, it is not the particular number of social links a person has that matters, but rather the importance is placed on the quality of these bonds.

Dr. Harris stated, “The relationship between health and the degree to which people are integrated in larger social networks is strongest at the beginning and at the end of life, and not so important in middle adulthood, when the quality, not the quantity, of social relationships matters.”

Conclusion to the Study

While the study did prove there is an association between strong social ties and better health, it didn’t prove conclusively why this is true. More study is needed in order to help researchers understand how the importance of social bonds can influence the health and longevity of people during their senior years.


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