The Health Benefits of Social Connections
February—being both the month of Valentine's Day and American Heart Month—is the perfect time to think about the importance of social connections: your friends, your family, your loved ones. But it should be something we also think about every month of the year.
We live in a digital age, spending so much time on our computers and our phones (ironically, much of the time connecting with friends through social media!)—that we're spending less time with face-to-face interactions. But just as we need food, exercise, and a roof over our heads, we also have a basic need for human relationships.
Face-to-face communications and real-time human connections are so important for building and strengthening our relationships. This boosts health—both mentally and physically. Here's what the latest research has found:
• Human connections are good for the heart. Numerous studies have linked strong social connections to a healthier heart. One study in particular, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that people with weaker social ties had higher blood pressure and higher body mass index—both risk factors for heart disease.
• Human connections help you live longer. Research has shown that people with poor social connections are more prone to cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, cancer, atherosclerosis, and slower wound healing in general. In fact, Brigham Young University researchers found that having healthy personal relationships increases longevity by 50 percent—on par with quitting smoking and almost twice as beneficial as exercising for your health. These are some pretty impressive stats!
• Human connections make you happier. People with fewer social connections have been shown to be more prone to depression—and it makes sense. Our friends and family make us laugh, make our hearts happy, and give us good reason to wake up every day with a smile.
So make it a goal to reach out to your friends and family more—no matter what month of the year it is. Make a date to get together, stop by to say hello in person, and just find a reason to hang out. Your heart, and your health, will be better off.
Be loved, be well,