Having Strong Social Connections Can Improve Your Health
Summary: Strong ties with family may help improve health-related behaviors, while strong ties with friends and other social groups have been linked to better overall mental health and well-being.
Source: University of Kent
The time people spend with family during the holidays could have improved their health, according to a new study that looked at how social ties with narrow social circles and extended groups are related to health and mental well-being.
The study, led by researchers from the University of Kent, Nottingham Trent University (NTU) and Coventry University, used self-reported data from more than 13,000 people in 122 countries collected during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic .
Surveys assessed people’s attachment strength to narrow social circles, such as family and friends, as well as to broader groups, such as country, government, and humanity. Pandemic-related health behavior as well as mental health and well-being of people were also measured.
Results show that only attachment to family and not to other groups is associated with positive engagement in health-promoting behaviors; Examples in this case were washing hands, wearing a mask and social distancing.
For example, 46% of people with strong family ties washed their hands at least “a lot,” compared to 32% of people who didn’t have strong family ties. Additionally, 54% of people who are not connected to their family said they have never worn a mask.
Attached people were vastly overrepresented among those engaged in health behaviors. Although people with strong family ties made up only 27% of the total sample, they accounted for 73% of those who engaged in social distancing, 35% of those who washed their hands, and 36% of those who washed “a lot.” or more wore a mask.
The study also found that strong attachments to both narrow social circles and extended groups are associated with better mental health and well-being. Importantly, the more groups people had strong attachments, the more engaged they were in health behaviors and the better their reported mental well-being, with less anxiety and depression.
The study recommends that the health message be focused on smaller networks as well as multiple groups, particularly during times of crisis when individuals should be encouraged to share their positive health behaviors with their close social circles.
It also suggests that health systems can reduce dependence on pharmaceutical treatments by using social prescribing to support individuals who do not have these ties in their lives.
The findings of the study, which included a wide range of countries such as Bangladesh, Brazil and Peru, have implications for addressing negative physical and mental health impacts from a global perspective. The study goes beyond the scope of traditional psychological approaches by reaching a large proportion of the world’s population.
Anthropologist at the University of Kent, Dr. Martha Newson said: “This research speaks to the universal need to belong – which is one of the reasons we felt it was so important to include a truly diverse sample from around the world. Wherever you are in the world, you care about other people.
“We found that having many groups is important to promoting better health behaviors, including bonding with abstract groups like your country or your government, but most important are our closest friends and family members – groups that we probably do.” recognized as important since the beginning of human history.”
dr Bahar Tunçgenç, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at NTU Faculty of Social Sciences, added: “In turbulent times such as disasters, social crises or pandemics, our social ties can be the key to receiving support.
“We look to people we trust and identify with when deciding what course of action to take. Because of this, our close ties to family—the people with whom many of us share important life events and from whom we learn—can foster healthy behaviors.
“At the same time, strong social connections — no matter how abstract or distant — are critical to promoting mental health. Our research shows that close and extended social ties provide different sources of support and guidance.”
dr Valerie van Mulukom, assistant professor at the Center for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University, said: “In the West we tend to see ourselves as individuals who must survive and conquer the world alone.
“Our research shows that humans are indeed very social animals, benefiting from and relying on their communities in more ways than one. This is even more pronounced in challenging times.
“It is advisable that government policies take these psychological needs and mechanisms into account and involve local authorities and grass-roots organizations in order to achieve maximum efficiency and well-being in times of disaster.”
About this news from social neuroscience and health research
Author: press office
Source: University of Kent
Contact: Press Office – University of Kent
Picture: The image is in the public domain
Original research: Open access.
“Social ties are associated with health behaviors and positive well-being worldwide” by Bahar Tunçgenç et al. scientific advances
Social ties are linked to health behaviors and positive well-being worldwide
In turbulent times like disasters, social crises or pandemics, our social ties can be the key to receiving support and gaining certainty about the right action.
In an analysis combining two global datasets (N = 13,264) collected during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, this study examined how social ties with narrow social circles (i.e. family and friends) and extended groups (i.e. country, government and humanity) are related to engagement for health is related to behavior and psychological well-being.
Results showed that only family attachment was associated with self-reported engagement in health behaviors.
Strong attachment to both narrow circles and extended groups predicted less anxiety and depression and better well-being, particularly for those associated with more groups.
These results underscore that close and extended social ties provide diverse sources of support and guidance in the most challenging circumstances, and that ongoing investment is required to forge and maintain both.