Friends, Family Good for Your Health
"Our analyses suggest that it may be good for the heart to be connected," said Eric B. Loucks, Ph.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and who led the study. "In general, it seems to be good for health to have close friends and family, to be connected to community groups or religious organizations, and to have a close partner."
In the study, men with an active social life showed lower levels of the inflammatory marker interleukin-6 (IL-6), which can lead to heart disease. Men who are isolated may have higher levels of IL-6 because they are more prone to unhealthy habits such as smoking, and because they may be more stressed and depressed -- two conditions that elevate IL-6.
Future studies will examine the effect of social networks on women, as well as the quality of relationships rather than simply quantity.
Greg Burton of GeniusNow notes the irony that the healthful benefits of social networks are being revealed at a time when our culture is breaking down such relationships. As work schedules become more demanding, divorce rates remain high, television and other media consume more of our time, and we no longer socialize the way we used to, maintaining social capital is increasingly difficult. Our culture -- including government and business -- will need to respect and support our social networks if we expect our citizens to enjoy a sense of health and well-being.