What studies show about the power of human connections.
What studies show about the power of human connections.
Philosophers have written about the power of friendships for millennia. However, it has only been over the past couple of decades that scientists have begun to study the impact that friendships can have on your overall health and happiness.
Below is a collection of the latest scientific studies on friendship and happiness, as well as the science of loneliness and its enormous personal and societal costs.
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“The only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people. “
“The influence of social relationships on the risk of death are comparable smoking and alcohol consumption.”
“Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”
“Social isolation and feelings of loneliness increase a person’s chance of premature death by 14 percent — nearly double the risk of early death from obesity.”
“Social relationships, or the relative lack thereof, constitute a major risk factor for health—rivaling the effect of well established health risk factors such as cigarette smoking, blood pressure, blood lipids, obesity and physical activity.”
“People with strong social relationships were less likely to develop a cold. Not only were they less susceptible to developing colds, they produced less mucus, were more effective in mucociliary clearance of the nasal passage, and shed less virus.”
A meta-analysis that reviewed 148 studies tracking over 300k participants indicated that the influence of social relationships on the risk of death are comparable with smoking and alcohol consumption and exceed the influence of other risk factors such as physical inactivity and obesity.
The subjective feeling of loneliness increases the risk of death by 26%, according to a study in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. Coupling this feeling with living alone, and the risk of mortality increases by 32%.
Loneliness is not only toxic, but highly prevalent in the United States and in many developed countries. At any given time at least one in five people, or roughly 60 million Americans, suffers from a chronic lack of intimacy.
In recent decades, the percentage of Americans with not a single close friends has gone up dramatically. Adult men are especially bad at keeping and cultivating friendships. Nevertheless, “zero” was also the most common response when people were asked how many confidants they have.
Results indicated that interpersonal relations predicted life satisfaction.
Specifically, interpersonal relations mediated the association between global irrationality and life satisfaction. Clinicians aiming to foster life satisfaction in their patients are encouraged to carefully assess their social functioning and utilize relationship-enhancing treatments.
Happy people tend to have many things in common. But the most salient characteristics shared by students who were very happy and showed the fewest signs of depression were their strong ties to friends and family and commitment to spending time with them.
Relationships have stronger associations with happiness than academic achievement, according to a recent study. Those who were socially confident, rarely alone and socially connected through clubs and youth groups were more likely to grow up into happier adults. Adolescent social connectedness was a better predictor of adult well-being than academic achievement. Measured sense of meaning, social engagement, positive coping and prosocial values.
One of the longest-running longitudinal studies of human development shows that people that are more socially connected delay the decline of their brain functioning. Having high-quality relationships acts as a protective measure against cognitive decline.
Relationships are especially important in old age. Loneliness is associated with an increased risk of late-life dementia. The risk of Alzheimer’s disease was more than doubled in lonely individuals.
Feeling socially isolated activates neurobiological mechanisms that take a toll on our brain, as well as on our overall health and well-being. This impairment often contributes to early morbidity.
A five year longitudinal analyses from an ethnically diverse population showed that loneliness predicts changes in depressive symptoms. The evidence also shows that, regardless of stress, general negative affectivity, social support, or even whether or not the participants were objectively socially isolated, the feeling of loneliness promoted the increases in depressive symptomatology. This applied to both genders and was irrespective of age.
Evidence shows that a sense of loneliness can heighten the perception and sensitivity of threats from all sides. This triggers the brain and body’s survival mechanisms and makes lonely individuals act in a defensive and self-protective fashion, further isolating themselves from others.
A review indicates that loneliness may be significant at all stages in the course of alcoholism. It is a contributing and maintaining factor in the growth of abuse and as an encumbrance in attempts to give it up.
A cross-sectional survey of 1289 adults concluded that lonely individuals were more likely to be smokers and more likely to be overweight – obese. The results were reached while controlling for age, annual income, gender, employment and marital status. Lonely individuals were also significantly less likely to quit or believe it was desirable for them to lose weight by walking for recreation, leisure or transportation.
Our circulatory system transports oxygen and nutrients to our bodies’ cells, which makes it vital to the effective functioning of our bodies. The feeling of loneliness, however, has shown to create peripheral resistance in the circulatory system. Loneliness in undergraduate students was also found to negatively affect a person’s cardiac contractility, heart rate, and cardiac output.
The lack of close relationships was associated with elevated systolic blood pressure and age-related increases in blood pressure. These findings were fairly clear, regardless of demographic variables, health behavior variables, and other psychosocial factors.
Loneliness was associated with a significantly reduced odds of physical activity. The results were irrespective of sociodemographic variables like age, gender, ethnicity, education, and income. Moreover, whether or not the individual rated him/herself as healthy, the results remained consistent even when controlling for psychosocial variables like depressive symptoms, perceived stress, hostility, and social support.
Everyone can benefit from a good night’s sleep, but studies show that sleep dysfunction is much more likely to occur in people that feel lonely. Poor sleep quality impairs an individual’s proper functioning, which is why it often precedes negative social and economic consequences.
Prior-day feelings of loneliness, sadness, threat, and lack of control were associated with a higher cortisol awakening response the next day. Larger morning rises in cortisol, a powerful stress hormone is the consequence of the brain’s preparation for another dangerous day.