The more social ties people have at an early age, the better their health is at the beginning and end of their lives, says a new study.
The study is the first to definitively link social relationships with concrete measures of physical well-being such as abdominal obesity, inflammation and high blood pressure, all of which can lead to long-term health problems, including heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Lead researchers Professor Kathleen Mullan Harris and James Haar said that it should be as important to encourage adolescents and young adults to build broad social relationships and social skills for interacting with others as it is to eat healthy and be physically active.
Harris and her team drew on data from four nationally representative surveys of the U.S. population that together covered the lifespan from adolescence to old age. They evaluated three dimensions of social relationships: social integration, social support and social strain.
They then studied how an individual’s social relationship was associated with four markers: blood pressure, waist circumference, body mass index and circulating levels of C-reactive protein.
The study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.