Saturday, May 13, 2017

Social Connections: They improve longevity and quality of life

With the 2017 TED Conference in April, The Future You, several presenters touched on the critical importance of social connections. In fact lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta Analytic Review

TED Speaker, psychologist Susan Pinker explained that the best predictor of a person’s longevity is their close relationships and social integration Those with intimacy in their lives, those with support systems and frequent face-to-face interactions were not only physically and emotionally healthier, but they also lived longer. Pinker believes it’s the strong social connections among women that explains why they live an average of six years longer that males. “Women are more likely to prioritize and groom face-to-face relationships over their lifetime,” Interestingly, women with strong connections are more likely to survive breast cancer than loners. Pinker’s TED Talk isn’t on line yet, but there are many videos available including her talk at Google “The Village Effect.”

If you follow this blog, this isn’t new information, as I’ve included Blue Zones research and The Harvard Longitudinal Study to name just a few studies. However, because people affected by chronic conditions often isolate themselves for a host of reasons, watching Pinker’s talks was a good reminder to think about how one socializes, or doesn’t, and what can be done about it.  Interestingly, many people find when they join a condition specific support group, for the first time in their life they have a peer group that understands them.

Consider the following:
• Un-plug (computer, tablet, phone) as in-person social connection is key
• Join an in-person condition specific or caregivers support group
• Participate in job, church, and other community based social groups
• Initiate conversations, get togethers with friends, neighbors, and family.
• Smiling at people brightens your day as well as theirs.
• Listening to people will help gain their confidence
• Be yourself as it’s not only hard to pretend to be something your not, it generally doesn’t work well. Besides people respond better to those who are genuine.
• You wont get along with everyone. It’s unrealistic to expect that everyone will like you or  “get you.”

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