What Are The Social Determinants of Health?

by | Jun 12, 2023

what are the social determinants of health

Health is based on a lot of different factors such as genetics, lifestyle, and nutrition, but one that is often overlooked is socializing. Human beings are social creatures, and as such social connectedness affects humans deeply on both mental and physical levels, shaping thought patterns and behaviors as well as health and wellbeing. When people do well socially by enjoying stable and supportive relationships, they can excel in every other area of their life. 

In this blog piece, we’re going to take a look at how socializing affects health and how to ensure good social wellbeing. 

How socializing affects health

Whether it’s holding your mom’s hand, giving your friend a hug, or chatting with your next-door neighbor, socializing doesn’t just feel good, it’s also great for you. 

Social connections can help to prevent against serious health conditions such as:

  • Dementia
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease

They can also help to:

  • Improve your ability to deal with and recover from anxiety, depression, and stress
  • Improve well-being, sleep, and overall quality of life
  • Promote healthy habits, such as eating well, being physically active, and managing weight
  • Prevent death from chronic diseases
  • Reduce the risk of violent and suicidal behaviors

These health benefits can be direct and indirect. 

When socializing affects you directly, it’s because you feel good by doing something nice for someone else or enjoy spending time with your loved ones. The levels of cortisol in your body (which are hormones which your body releases when stressed) can decrease and lead to feeling calmer and experiencing less inflammation. This reduction in inflammation helps you sleep better, think better, and function better overall. 

You can also enjoy indirect benefits such as improved habits and quality of life from simply being around other people and doing as they do. If you want to see your friend but the only free time they have is in the evening and they need to hit the gym, then you might consider joining them to hang out and also get fitter in the process. 

In romantic relationships, if one partner is trying to exercise more, eat healthier, or quit smoking and drinking, then the other partner is very likely to try to do the same. 

It’s also true that having a good network means that it’s likelier that someone will notice your absence, change in demeanor, or any other warning signs if you’re in trouble or need support. 

All of this means that it’s no wonder there’s plenty of evidence that having a healthy social life is exactly what you need! You’re probably wondering though, is your social life healthy?

What does a healthy social life look like?

It’s common to think that a healthy social life means having a good number of friends and family. Staying in touch, laughing together, supporting each other through tough times. This is however, only part of the bigger picture. 

There is evidence that a healthy social life should be diverse. Social diversification just means having a number of different types of social connections; close friends and family, yet also acquaintances, strangers, and workmates. 

In a series of surveys, researchers noted that having a more socially diverse network meant that people were happier than those with a less socially diverse network, regardless of overall time spent socializing.

This is probably due to the different ways that people interact with each other. Of course, you would act differently around people you’re close to than you would with a stranger. 

A healthy social life is just like a healthy diet. Variety is important for a healthy diet, because you have to eat and drink different things to get the micronutrients and macronutrients that your body needs. 

When it comes to socializing, if you only stuck to the people you already know and are comfortable with, you’d never push your boundaries, help someone who needed it, expand your knowledge, or find a friendship that was waiting to happen. 

How to make sure that you have a healthy social life

Now that you understand why it’s important to have a healthy social life and what it means to do so, here are some tips to ensure that your social life is the best that it can be.

  • Pursue your passions – try out what interests you and use it to find others who share the passion. 
  • Take a class – do a class that features moving your body, learning a new skill, or expanding your horizons. You can connect with others to improve your social life while also working on personal wellbeing. 
  • Join a group – there are many groups that focus on painting, reading, hiking, or similar activities.
  • Volunteer – volunteering is an excellent way to make new connections while also doing something good for a cause. 
  • Talk to strangers – be nice to your cashier or waiter, have a friendly chat with someone at the bus stop, talk to people you work with but don’t know, or even pay a stranger a compliment. 
  • Join a local community – you can find a strong sense of belonging and pride in joining a local community and taking part in activities that contribute to the upkeep of your locale. 
  • Check in with your loved ones – it’s important to stay connected with your loved ones. Take pictures of things that remind you of them, send them a message letting them know what’s going on in your life, and ask them how they’re doing. 
  • Connect meaningfully with your partner – it’s easy to overlook a partner, especially when living with them. Continue to go on dates, make them feel special, and act as if you’re trying to woo them. 
  • Be critical – look for the right connections in life. While it’s always good to leave judgement and bias at the door, if someone in your life has displayed and continues to display poor behavior and makes you feel bad being with them, then cut them out of your life. 

Connect with others and enjoy life to the fullest!

Having a healthy social network is one of the most important things that you can do for yourself. It isn’t just good for you, it feels good too. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and connect with the people around you!

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