[tabi] people need people

  • From: "Chip Orange" <Corange@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 7 Jan 2011 12:16:25 -0500

from an article in a health news letter:
Here's a riddle: Other than air, water, sleep and food, what is it that
human adults
need so badly that doing without it is as harmful to health as being an
or smoking 15 cigarettes a day? It is so important to your health that
not having
it is worse for you than being sedentary and is considered twice as
dangerous as

It's not sex -- though that may well be a part of it.
It's social interaction, and believe it or not, having strong ties to
other people
is so vital that it actually improves your odds that you'll live for any
given period
of time by 50%!

People Need People

These compelling statistics spelling out the importance of human
relationships were
identified in new research published in the July 2010 issue of
PLoS Medicine
, which analyzed 148 studies involving the social habits of 300,000
people over an
average of seven and a half years. Until now, the link between lack of
and risk for death hasn't been widely explored. It was a goal of the
authors, from
the psychology department of Brigham Young University, to produce a
review that is
so comprehensive that the public and medical community both sit up and
take notice.
The researchers learned that social support provides numerous emotional
that translate into good health and longevity, specifically...
Social connections help people handle difficult and uncomfortable
emotions, including
anxiety and anger.
Friends and family act as helpful naggers -- they tend to encourage
healthy lifestyles
by urging people who aren't healthy to sleep more, lose weight, eat
see a doctor, exercise or quit smoking.
Social relationships provide meaning and purpose in life, and people who
have a purpose
are more likely to take better care of themselves and avoid unnecessary
health risks.

What Are The Benefits?

"Our relationships influence long-term health through emotional and/or
responses that affect physiological processes," says the study's lead
author Julianne
Holt-Lunstad, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Brigham Young.
"The data
shows us that real or perceived availability of social resources is
linked to lower
blood pressure, better immune functioning and decreased inflammatory
processes for
a number of different diseases." As an example, Dr. Holt-Lunstad cites a
study in
which participants wore a device that measures blood pressure throughout
a 24-hour
period -- it showed that people with social support tend to have lower
blood pressure.
However, despite the numerous studies showing that relationships are
associated with
healthiness, the exact mechanisms by which they do so are not clear.

Epidemic of Loneliness

Humans are naturally social, note the researchers, but many aspects of
modern life
lead to isolation. For instance, in our highly mobile society, people
often live
far from all or most of their family members. Many delay getting married
and having
children, and because more people of all ages are living alone,
loneliness seems
to be a growing problem. According to a Duke University study published
in the
American Sociological Review
, over the past two decades, the number of Americans who say that they
have no close
confidantes has doubled -- to 25%.
Increasingly popular technology that keeps us glued to a computer or
cell phone inhibits
development of close personal relationships. Acknowledging that the
Internet may
make it easier to meet people, Dr. Holt-Lunstad said she doesn't believe
that online
interactions can take the place of in-person engagement. For instance,
studies show
that physical touch from a loved one has measurable health benefits,
including pain
reduction and lowered blood pressure. Cancer patients who receive loving
touch from
friends or family members report less fatigue and nausea than those who
did not.

Quality Time

Dr. Holt-Lunstad told me that she's more than once been asked "what
about relationships
that aren't pleasant?"
She said that quality absolutely is important, noting that scientific
evidence does
show that "negative relationships" can hurt our health. Rather than
using that as
a reason to be loners, however, Dr. Holt-Lunstad suggests this is
evidence that we
should work to improve existing relationships in addition to looking for
more opportunities
to develop new ones.
In fact, said Dr. Holt-Lunstad, the quality of relationships is more
than the quantity. "Having even one true confidante or someone you know
you can turn
to when you need a favor is important," she says. "You might have 50
people around
you and still feel lonely -- we need to go beyond thinking about

Whatever the cause of loneliness -- a negative perception of yourself or
poor social skills, few social contacts or lack of a confidante -- this
is one "medical
treatment" that can be quite pleasant. Start by calling a friend today!

Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, associate professor of psychology, Brigham
Young University,
Provo, Utah.
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