You exercise. You eat vegetables. You even meditate semi-regularly.
You’re the definition of health, right?
If you’re missing strong social connections, you’re missing an essential element of overall physical and emotional wellness.
Why do healthy relationships matter? We’re explaining seven of the most significant wellness benefits of prioritizing social health.
1. Reduced Risk of Depression and Anxiety
Over eight percent of U.S. adults suffer from depression, and over three percent suffer from anxiety. If you fall into either or both of those groups, improving your social health could be a game-changer.
Research shows that depression symptoms (sadness, hopelessness, apathy, etc.) are worse among those who lack frequent social interaction. Another study also showed a link between isolation and worsened anxiety symptoms (restlessness, hypervigilance, excessive worry, insomnia, etc.).
One of the biggest reasons why socialization improves mental health is that it contributes to the production of oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone associated with social bonding. It helps people feel more trusting, generous, and outgoing.
2. Reduced Stress and Inflammation
At the end of a stressful day, many of us want nothing more than to get in our cars, drive home, and crash on the couch with the remote and a glass of wine.
There’s nothing wrong with spending an evening alone. However, you might find that too much alone time worsens your stress.
This study shows that strong social connections are associated with reductions in several health issues. For example, those with healthy social lives experienced lower levels of inflammation and were less likely to experience abdominal obesity (excessive belly fat).
3. Reduced Risk of Chronic Health Conditions
Reducing inflammation can also reduce your risk of developing several other chronic health conditions, including the following:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
These and other chronic health issues are associated with elevated inflammation, so it makes sense that regular socialization would help to minimize the risk of developing them. Furthermore, people who prioritize social health are more likely to make other health-promoting decisions like exercising and eating nutritious food.
4. Improved Cognitive Function
In addition to improving your mood and making your body healthier, socialization can also improve cognitive function, including memory and processing speeds.
Regular socialization is especially important for older adults with concerns about their cognitive health.
A Penn State study showed that adults aged 70 to 90 who reported frequent, pleasant social interactions had improved cognitive performance on the day of the interactions and the two following days.
5. Stronger Immune System
A healthy social life contributes to a more robust immune system as well. There are two reasons for this.
First, socialization reduces your risk of mental health challenges like depression and anxiety. These conditions can weaken the immune system.
Second, those who socialize are more likely to engage in health-promoting behaviors, like eating nutritious food and exercising regularly. Participating in these behaviors is also good for your immune system and strengthens your ability to fight off infections.
6. Faster Recovery from Injuries
Those who have a solid social support system may also recover from injuries faster. This connection may have to do with the anti-inflammatory benefits of socialization, as well as the improved overall health of those who socialize often.
The expedited injury recovery likely also has to do with the extra help those with healthy social connections have. If your friends and family can assist you, you have more bandwidth to focus on healing.
7. Longer Lifespan
Considering all the other health benefits associated with strong social connections — from reduced depression to a reduced risk of heart disease — it’s understandable that you’ll likely live longer when you prioritize social wellbeing.
A healthy social life is linked to a longer lifespan — a 50 percent reduction in the risk of early death, to be precise. Simply put, if you want to live longer and enjoy a higher quality of life as you get older, don’t neglect your social life.
How to Improve Social Health
It’s safe to say that strong social connections can make your life better. How do you establish these connections and improve your social health, though? Use these tips as a starting point:
Put Yourself Out There
The first step to having healthy social connections is putting yourself out there. You can’t make friends or build stronger relationships if you don’t put in any effort.
Step out of your comfort zone and attend the next office happy hour or attend a local meetup group for people in your area. You never know when you might meet a new friend!
Start a New Hobby
Hobbies can also help you make friends and get to know people with similar interests. Take up hiking, painting, pottery, or archery — the options are practically endless.
Focus on Quality, Not Quantity
The quality of your relationships matters more than the quantity. It’s better to have two genuine friendships than two dozen shallow ones.
Set Specific Goals
As a busy professional, you might argue that you don’t have time to dedicate to strengthening your social connections. The benefits of social relationships are too significant to ignore, though.
Set a specific goal, such as reaching out weekly to a friend or family member. Doing so might make it easier to make time for things that are good for your health and well-being.
You can also use technology to help you improve your social health (no, we’re not suggesting you spend more time on Facebook or Instagram).
Apps like BetterYou allow you to set specific health-related goals — including a goal to check in more often with friends and family. They also provide regular reminders and nudges to ensure you follow through and continue making progress.
Start Boosting Social Health and Emotional Wellness Today
Now that you know more about the benefits of having and maintaining healthy social connections, are you ready to spend more time focusing on your friendships and family relationships?
If so, use BetterYou to set and achieve your goals.
Download the app today, or reach out to learn more about how it works!