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Those who fail to socialize die younger, but do people care about that?

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Posted February 7, 2018

We have lot of harmful habits. We smoke, drink alcohol, use drugs, sit too much, forget to exercise, eat unhealthy food and so on. However, the most important thing is that we know that this behaviour is bad for our health. But did you know that lack of social contact can be as harmful as other bad habits? It can even be worse than smoking.

Exercising groups may be a good starting point to build social connections. Image credit: Benson Kua via Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 2.0)

A new research led by University of Queensland revealed that most people don’t know that lack of social integration is harmful for their health. Scientists asked 500 people from the United States and the United Kingdom to tell about their views regarding social connectedness and health. The goal was to find out how these people see the importance of social interaction for one’s life expectancy. Numerous studies have already shown that social interaction is actually one the most important factor determining mortality, but do people know that? The negative effects of lack of social integration are not immediately evident.

This study showed that only 15 % of people correctly assess the importance of social factors on mortality. Professor Alex Haslam, leader of the research, said: “Men, younger participants, and those with a lower level of education were more likely to underestimate the importance of social factors for health, as were people who believed in the importance of authority and convention”. Scientists say that the only possible solution to this situation is education – the harmful effects of smoking were largely popularized by media campaigns and publishing of scientific studies in the popular magazines and newspapers. Researchers would also like to tackle the notion of health as something purely medical and physical, even though in this case social interaction is very much physically important.

Studies have shown that those people, who are connected to their social environment more, live longer and healthier lives. They are also happier. Loneliness increases the risk of death by 30 %. General practitioners in some countries are already giving their patient’s advices to start living a more social life. A good way to do this is to link yourself to some local organization – volunteering or exercising are always good at building social connections.

Understanding that social relations are important for one’s health is a good first step. However, most people don’t know that and find it difficult to believe when they hear about it. Some information campaigns and GP’s promoting social activities could be a good first step to solving this problem.

 

Source: University of Queensland

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