We often hear that communicating with people who are pleasant to us not only gives pleasure, but also strengthens health. It turns out that you need to meet more often with friends and family? New research casts doubt on this claim.
Psychological research has repeatedly confirmed that the key components of health and long life are proper nutrition, physical activity, normal sleep and regular communication with significant people.
What about contact with others? People are social beings, we need to interact with our own kind. We live and work in groups, we depend on each other, and communication is one of the basic human needs.
However, while daily contacts at home and at work do a lot of good, they can sometimes lead to stress and unsettle us. In addition to those who surround us day after day, we meet friends and relatives who live separately. We go to visit each other, get together, have parties, in a word, we run away from routine in good company.
We spend time with people, enjoy their company, and it lifts our spirits. Research continues to show that the more social contacts we have, the happier we become and the longer we live.
But what if the main benefit of social interaction is moderation – just like eating, exercising, and sleeping?
Occasional social contact does indeed lift your spirits, which is good for your overall well-being.
This question was asked by psychologists from the Netherlands Olga Stavrova and Donning Reng. In their work, an extremely simple hypothesis was tested: are people with frequent social contacts healthier than others?
To find out if this is actually happened, scientists used data from the latest European Social Survey, which regularly examines the mood, values and level of well-being of people from 37 countries.
The authors were interested in two points. The first is the number of social contacts: participants indicated how often they meet with colleagues, friends and family. The responses were scored on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 meant never and 7 meant every day. The second item is an assessment of well-being from 1 to 5, where “1” meant “very bad”, and “5” – “very good.”
The researchers then examined the relationship between two case and found a positive correlation. In other words, the level of health increases with the frequency of contact. In fact, this once again confirmed the conclusion of many experts, on the basis of which the opinion was formed that active communication is good for health.
At the same time, Stavrova and Reng note, the conclusions based on such data are not entirely reliable, since the correlation analysis provides for a linear relationship. Therefore, they decided to check the validity of the previous statement by analyzing the data obtained according to a different principle.
When the experts compared the scores of well-being with each of the seven indicators of the frequency of social contacts, the result was different. The graphs clearly showed a significant improvement in well-being, even in the interval between “I never communicate”, “less than once a month” and “once a month.”
That is, even rare communication helps us to improve our health. Remarkably, the positive effect reduced when the number of social contacts increases to “several times a month” and “once a week”. Moreover, there was practically no difference in the assessment of the well-being of those who indicated “several times a week” and “every day”.
Stavrova and Wren link their discovery to a phenomenon that economists call “marginal utility.” Utility refers to the benefits derived from consumption.
Say, if you are really hungry, a slice of pizza will be of immense benefit. You might even want to eat the second one, but most likely it will not seem as tasty as the first one. And if you also eat the third piece, you will surely find later that it was superfluous.
This study suggests that social contacts also have marginal utility.
Loneliness is a sad experience, and over time it can cause serious damage to your mental and physical health. This is why sporadic social contact really lifts your spirits, which is good for your overall well-being.
Excessive social activity primarily interferes with a healthy lifestyle
However, the authors note, loneliness is also important for mental health. We all need solitude to reflect on our destiny, and just do what we like. In the hustle and bustle of modern life, many find that there are almost no windows left in the calendar of planned social events.
Communication is good for your health, but it has its drawbacks. After all, social contacts definitely interfere with our daily activities, both at home and at work. No matter how much we develop healthy habits – food, exercise, sleep – the regime is somehow disrupted.
When we meet friends or relatives, we tend to eat and drink more than usual, and often allow ourselves high-calorie, “heavy” meals. Communication also often breaks your workout and sleep schedule.
Although periodic breaks from routine help to appreciate the benefits of everyday, at first glance, such a monotonous pastime, excessive social activity primarily interferes with leading a healthy lifestyle.
Twenty-five centuries ago, the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle said that moderation in everything is the key to health and longevity. So, it is worth eating healthy foods, but not overeating, playing sports, but not overstraining, getting enough sleep … And in communicating with friends and relatives, it is also important to find a “middle ground”.
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