Health Benefits of Staying Connected

by Joanna

There are many times in life when we part with people we see frequently: moving, going to college, changing jobs, getting busy with family, your job, and just life in general.

A 2016 study showed that around age 25, both men and women's social interactions begin to decline. They found this is largely due to the desire to find a partner and raise a family, which means that social networks begin to shrink and a smaller "inner circle" forms. The frequency of interactions starts to increase closer to retirement. 

I think we all get it; life is busy and it's hard to make time for ourselves, let alone anyone else, but there are health benefits to staying connected with family and friends. According to Psychology Today, studies have shown that:

  • Social support is related to psychological well-being, meaning that the more a person feels he has friends and family who are there for him, the less likely he is to feel depressed and anxious (Turner, 1981).
  • High levels of social support predict more job satisfaction and longer job tenure than low levels of social support (Harris, Winskowski, & Engdahl, 2007).
  • Older adults with a chronic illness who had medium levels of social support had 41% less chance of death than those with low levels of social support, and high levels of social support resulted in a 55% lower chance of death. (Zhange, Norris, Gregg, & Beckles, 2007).

They even go on to say that "social support is vital for life success" and that not enough is "bad news for both your health and your career". 

Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine found that you are more likely to have better memory and cognitive function in your 80s and beyond when you have more fulfilling relationships.

The best option is to see people in person. Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and the University of Michigan both support socializing. Not only can it increase intellectual performance but also improve overall mental function by 75%! Some ways to get together with people include team sports, book clubs, play dates, volunteering, and of course, coffee/dinner/drinks with friends.

If you can't get together in person with people, the next best option is technology. Text messaging or social media has been great for keeping in contact (and reconnecting) with people. One of my best friends from college, Kristyn, a former roommate and teammate, is great at keeping in touch. She's in a different time zone, but we spend our drive home at least once a month catching up and giving each other support. I'm very grateful for that.

How do you stay in touch with people? It might seem like a hassle, but there is a plethora of research to back up the importance. Call an old friend, get together iwth former co-workers. And for gosh sakes, give your mom or grandma a call!

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