How Your Social Life Impacts Your Health

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We are taught from a young age the importance of social relationships and interacting. Seems like a no brainier, but did you know that social relationships — both the quantity and quality of them — affect mental health, health behavior, physical health, and mortality risk?

According to a study conducted at Bringham Young University, people who have strong ties to their family, friends, and co-workers have a 50% lower risk of dying than those who have fewer social ties. The study also compares having few friends or weak social ties as being as harmful to your health as being an alcoholic or smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. According to the study, which was published in the journal Plos Medicine, weak social ties are more harmful than not exercising and twice, yes twice as risky as being obese.

So we know social ties are important, but why? Well according to the study, theories include that our relationships directly impact our decisions on being active and seeking medical care if we are sick. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, associate professor of psychology at Brigham Young explains in the article that, “Our relationships encourage us to eat healthy, get exercise, get more sleep, see a doctor.’’

Despite this, the key is not in the quantity of your social ties, but the quality. An article in Harvard Health Publications notes that while strong ties with family and friends lead to good health, weak ties or toxic relationships could harm your health.

“Studies have linked disappointing or negative interactions with family and friends with poorer health. One intriguing line of research has found signs of reduced immunity in couples during especially hostile marital spats,” the article says. Having a strong friendship tie can also directly link to your health by having a good influence in a gym buddy.

According to Steve Stonehouse, the Personal Training Manger at Crunch Gym in NYC, there are many benefits both physically and emotionally to having a go-to gym partner. “No one wants to be Debbie Downer by bailing and letting down your friend. “After three or four weeks, once you’re in the habit, you won’t even think about canceling on your friend,” Stonehouse told Men’s Fitness.

By maintaining close ties with your friends, it makes it harder to break commitments, which in turn becomes a great way to start, or maintain a gym habit. Beyond your bros immediate impact on getting you motivated to go to the gym, your partner is impacting your health and happiness too, but in a long term way.

A study lead by Professor Wilhelm at Northwestern University, couples who regularly check in on one another, and show interest in one each others goals, academic achievements, career, leisure and financial aspirations were more satisfied in their relationships.

According to Livestrong.com, these couples who received support from their significant other were more likely to feel more in control, and make progress on their goals, leading them to have a higher chance of accomplishing their goals than those who were not satisfied with their relationship.

Quality not quantity of friendships with your family, friends, and significant others can affect you across many channels of your life and health. So, going into your holidays, remember to keep your ties strong, and appreciate your family, no matter how nosey they might be.

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