A study with over 300,000 participants found that social support and social connection was a stronger predictor of survival than physical activity, body mass index, hypertension, air pollution, alcohol consumption, and even smoking fifteen cigarettes a day! Furthermore, many other studies have found that the main determining factor to a happy life is quality relationships. We are social beings, so this is no surprise.
Having good social relationships with friends and/or family help buffer the effects of chronic stress by providing emotional support and as we know, stress can be very damaging to our health. It makes us feel supported, like we have a safety net. Also, social relationships directly influence health through their effect on physiology, behavior, and mood. Good quality social relationships can make us feel happy and increase our self esteem, which in turn is vital for our health and wellbeing.
Not only can social connection maintain our health and prevent disease, it can also help us recover from chronic health issues. If you are suffering from a chronic illness, it is true that diet, supplements and other interventions will play an important role in your recovery and healing. However, making time to focus on social connection is just as, and even more important. Setting up regular dates with friends, working with a therapist and maybe even joining groups to meet people who may be suffering from a similar condition to you, might be the missing key to your healing.
Humans are genetically social creatures and crave meaningful human contact. It is vital to both our mental and physical wellbeing.