Texas Health Resources is advancing the science of well-being to keep you healthier. From job satisfaction to social relationships to lifestyle habits, every aspect of your life affects well-being. This is the first of a four-part series.
What is the key to your well-being? Truth is, it’s a collection of factors that should co-exist peacefully in your life for you to achieve the most personal benefit. And these fundamentals are backed by scientific fact.
Your immune system is directly affected by your social relationships.
Social relationships — both in quality and quantity — affect mental and physical health, behavior, and mortality risk. For better or for worse, studies show that social relationships have both short- and long-term effects on health.
It’s probably not a surprise that close friendships are good for our physiological health — but there is science behind this well-known truth now, too. Tricia Nguyen, M.D., executive vice president of population health and president of Texas Health Population Health, Education & Innovation Center explains, “these relationships serve as a buffer during tough times, which improves cardiovascular functioning and decreases stress levels.
Conversely, people with very few social ties have nearly twice the risk of dying from heart disease and are twice as likely to catch colds — even taking into account that they have less exposure to germs that come from frequent social contact. It’s a proven fact; your friends really are good for your heart.”
And, when “life happens,” positive close relationships also help us heal faster. In one study of married couples, researchers divided the groups into those who reported have a “hostile” marriage and those who reported that their marriage was positive and supportive.
Each group had similar wounds, but the time it took to heal from those wounds was drastically different: the group of people in hostile marriages took twice as long to heal than the happy group did. Twice as long! What does this say about how your relationships help you recover from all the bumps and bruises in life?
Scientists have also found that proximity matters when it comes to friendship and your well-being. A friend who lives closer has more impact on your well-being than one who lives even a few miles away. When you and a friend have a third mutual friend in common, that influences your well-being even more, researchers say. Our entire network has a great influence on our personal well-being. Is it time to hug your friends just a little closer?
Read more about the science behind it:
- Umberson, Debra. Karas Montez, Jennifer. “Social Relationships and Health: A Flashpoint for Health Policy.“ Journal of Health and Social Behavior NIH Public Access
- Chapman, Daniel P., Perry, Geraldine S., Strine, Tara W. “The Vital Link Between Chronic Disease and Depressive Disorders.” Preventative Chronic Disease. 2005; 2:1-10. National Center for Biotechnology Information
For more information, visit TexasHealth.org/Well-Being.