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FLASH: Getting together with friends on a regular basis boosts and benefits overall health, and hey, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) do not count.
Most focus on eating a healthy diet, exercising and making positive lifestyle choices to improve their health. But according to an article published in Social Health News, this week hanging out with friends may be more important to overall well-being.
A study published in the journal PLOS ONE found that people who have strong social circles, as indicated by their cell phone activity, report less stress and more happiness and a better sense of wellness than those who provided data via fitness trackers.
The recent study, conducted by Nitesh Chawla, a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Notre Dame, is supported by previous research.
Studies have shown that a prosperous social life is associated with better mental and physical health, lower stress levels and improved mood. Social isolation, on the other hand, is linked to higher rates of chronic diseases and mental health issues.
Some researchers say that loneliness can even affect our health at the cellular level causing dangerous inflammation and suppressing immunity.
The detrimental effect of loneliness is as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes daily and is acute among older Americans, according to the Health Resources & Services Administration, which coins the phrase “loneliness epidemic.”
On the flip side, getting together with friends on a regular basis boosts and benefits overall health.
A University of Oxford study revealed that women’s health and well-being improve when they get together with four best friends twice a week in a meeting where they drink beer, gossip and laugh together, according to an article in Creative Healthy Family.
Dr. Robin Dunbar, a psychologist and director of Oxford University’s social and evolutionary neuroscience research group, conducted a similar study with men and the results were the same. Meeting up with the guys and sharing a beer or two had positive health benefits.
He concluded that men who maintain social groups are less likely to suffer from depression and are able to recover quicker from illnesses than those with less social contact.
Again, Twitter and Facebook do not count.
A recent study conducted by the health insurer Cigna (NYSE:CI), found that social media plays a major role in the loneliness epidemic because it cuts back on Face-to-Face interactions. Dr. Stuart Lustig, 1 of the report’s authors and Cigna’s national medical executive for behavioral health, says that taking time to cultivate relationships with family and friends is crucial to our well-being. He recommends joining a gym, volunteering or cultivating a new hobby to increase your circle of friends.
“Real, Face-to-Face time with people is important, and the activity part of it makes it fun and enjoyable while it gives people an excuse to get together,” he says.
Dr, Lustig suggests that using social media as a tool to find new friends is fine. “We should use technology to seek out meaningful connections and people that you are going to be able to keep in your social sphere.”
Even quick encounters at the grocery store can help stave off loneliness and isolation, says Dr. Lustig.
“There is an opportunity to grow those kinds of quick exchanges into conversations and intro more meaningful relationships over time. People should take those opportunities wherever they possibly can, because all of us, innately, are wired from birth to connect.
Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively