A good Social Health Definition is having close personal ties with groups or organizations ties promoting overall physical and mental health. Studies, like a 2011 Journal of Health and Social Behavior (NIH) study show that social relationships or personal social ties have short and long term affects on health, most of them positive, and that these affects emerge in childhood and cascade throughout life to foster advantages or disadvantages in health.
Socializing can provide a number of benefits to your physical and mental health and well being. America these days is not a happy place. Even though the economy is up, polarization is at an all-time high, and a feeling of malaise, or worse, grips the nation according to a detailed study by the 2018 Gallup Organization and the healthcare information service Sharecare “Record 21 States See Decline in Well-Being in 2017” survey.
The study takes into account survey results from more than 2.5 million Americans. It examines how people feel in their day-to-day lives across key dimensions of well-being, including physical health and wellness; having supportive personal and family relationships; financial and economic security; having a sense of purpose; and connection to one’s community.
Despite some gains in specific categories, the overall results show a nation where well-being is in sharp decline. From 2016 to 2017, America saw its largest year-over-year drop in well-being in the 10 years that Gallup has tracked these data. Furthermore, 21 states registered absolute declines in their levels of well-being, and not a single state showed a statistically significant improvement in 2017. Quoting a National Institutes Of Health (NIH) reviewed 2011 Annual Review of Socialogy study:
For example, studies, like this NIH-reviewed 2008 study published in the BMJ involving heart patients, showed that people’s happiness depends on the happiness of others with whom they are connected with medically and in this case, socially. This provides further justification for seeing happiness, like health, as a collective phenomenon.
Did you know that connecting with friends may also boost your brain health and lower your risk of dementia? The NIH in a 2017 “Cognitive Health and Older Adults” study offered 2 key factors in maintaining cognitive function: Keep your mind active and socially engaged, and stay connected in social activities.
In a study of 2,249 California women published in the July 2008 American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) “Social Network, Cognitive Function, and Dementia Incidence Among Elderly Women”, researchers reported that older women who maintained large social networks reduced their risk of dementia and delayed or prevented cognitive impairment. In another example, the NIH reviewed 2011 Journal of Health and Social Behavior, confirmed solid scientific evidence which shows that social relationships affect a range of health outcomes, including mental health, physical health, health habits, and mortality risk.
Wikipedia defines social ties as,
Attitudes, orientations, or behaviors, which take interest, intentions, or needs of all people into account in a supporting manner.
To learn more on social ties on Wikipedia, read here.
Captors use isolation to torture prisoners of war to gain secret or classified information, to a drastic affect. Social isolation of otherwise healthy, well-functioning individuals, eventually results in psychological and physical disintegration, and can even result in death, per this Scientific America study of neuroscientists making a case against solitary confinement.
Over the past few decades, according to research like this 2008 World Health Organization (WHO) “The Social Determinants of Health”, social scientists have gone beyond evidence of extreme social deprivation to demonstrate a clear link between relationships and health, and how that knowledge might be translated into policy that promotes population health.
What Are Social Connections?
In understanding a Social Health Definition scientists have studied several distinct features of social connection offered by relationships. Social isolation involves the relative absence of social relationships, whereas, social integration refers to overall level of involvement with informal social relationships, such as having a spouse, and formal relationships, such as those associated with religious institutions or volunteer organizations.
Quality of relationships include positive aspects of relationships, such as emotional support provided by significant others, and strained aspects, such as conflicts and stress. Each of these aspects of social relationships affect your health. As mentioned earlier, the NIH has an excellent manuscript published in the 2011 Journal of Health and Social Behavior on this subject which is worth reading.
Social Relationships Benefit Health
Longer Healthier Life. Many types of scientific evidence shows that being sociable benefits health. The most striking evidence comes from studies of mortality across industrialized nations. These studies consistently show that individuals with the lowest level of involvements, are more likely to die, than those with greater social engagement. For example, a 2011 NIH “The Role of Social Networks and Social Integration” study, showed that the risk of death among men and women with the fewest social ties, was more than twice as high as the risk for adults with the most social ties.
According to a recent 2019 PNAS study leading a meaningful life of health and well being at older ages involving relationship with social engagement, prosperity, health, and biology, and their connection to worthwhile activities in later life.
It may center around maintaining harmonious family relationships, working toward goals in hobbies, the achievements of a favorite sports team, communing with nature, religious or spiritual faith, making money, intellectual accomplishment, satisfaction with work, stimulating travel, or other experiences.
However, whatever the source, our findings suggest that engaging in activities perceived to be worthwhile has wide ramifications across many domains of human experience at older ages.
In addition, social ties also reduced mortality risks among adults with medical conditions. For example, one 2018 Antioxidants and Redox Signaling study reviewed by the NIH, found that adults with coronary artery disease, the socially isolated had a risk of cardiac death, 2.4 times greater than the more socially connected peers.
Better Physical Health. Besides mortality, a low quality of social ties, has a detrimental affect on a host of conditions, including the development and progression of cardiovascular disease, recurrent myocardial infarction, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, cancer, delayed cancer recovery, and slower wound healing.
One 2014 University of Pittsburgh “Marriage and Healthy Hearts: Correlation Between Unhappy Marital Interactions, Cardiovascular Disease Risk” study found growing evidence suggests that the quality and patterns of one’s social relationships may be linked with a variety of health outcomes, including heart disease and how it correlates unhappy marital interaction with thicker carotid arteries and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
A 2014 Medical University of Vienna “Higher Risk of High Blood Pressure For Socially Disadvantaged” study found that higher risk of high blood pressure for socially disadvantaged individuals. A 2018 study in the American Association For Cancer Research (AACR) “Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention” findings revealed that one’s appraisal of their social support was associated with cancer. Or in the case of mortality, such individuals reporting higher levels of social support satisfaction had lower mortality risk than individuals reporting lower levels of satisfaction.
A NIH-reviewed 2019 Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers Prevention study further found there’s evidence that inflammatory processes may undergird the link between social support satisfaction and mortality among individuals with cancer, with individuals reporting higher levels of social support satisfaction.
Poor quality of social engagement have also been associated with inflammatory bio makers and impaired immune function, which are factors associated with adverse health outcomes and mortality according to a 2011 NIH-reviewed research entitled Journal of Health and Social Behavior. Social engagement is associated with a stronger immune system, especially for older adults, found an NIH “Better Understand the Effects of Personal, Interpersonal, and Societal Factors On Aging” research.
The impact of social and psychological stress on wound healing research shows converging and replicated evidence indicating that psychological stress can modulate wound healing processes according to a 2012 NIH-reviewed research Immunology Allergy Clinical of North America.
A 2010 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill “Social Networks As Important As Exercise, Diet Across the Span of Our Lives” study found that more social ties people have at an early age, the better their health is at the beginnings and ends of their lives, the new study found. This 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.
A 2017 Brigham Young University and PLOS|ONE Medicine study published in American Psychologist, BYU professors Julianne Holt-Lunstad and Timothy Smith report that social connections consisting of friends, family, neighbors or colleagues, improve our odds of survival by 50 percent. This means that you are better able to fight off colds, the flu, a whole host of other ailments, and even some types of cancer.
Better Mental Health. Interacting with others boosts feelings of well-being and decreases feelings of depression.
Research like this 2019 Mayo Clinic “Friendships: Enrich Your Life and Improve Your Health” study and review, has shown that one sure way of improving your mood is to work on building social connections.
Lower the Risk of Dementia. More recently, there has been accumulating evidence, such as a 2004 Lancet Neurology (NIH) study, that socializing is good for your brain health, particularly in older adults.
People who connect with others generally perform better on tests of memory and other cognitive skills. In the long run, people with active social lives are less likely to develop dementia than those who are more socially isolated, determined a 2019 University College of London “Socially Active 60-Year-Olds Face Lower Dementia Risk” research.
Marriage is perhaps, the most studied social ties connection. Recent studies, such as this 2016 Harvard Health “The Health Advantages of Marriage” study, show that marriage history over the life course shapes a range of positive health outcomes, including, reducing cardiovascular disease, chronic conditions, mobility limitations, self-rated health, and depression.
How Do Social Ties Benefit Health/Social Health Definition
Generally speaking, there are three broad ways that social ties work to influence health: Behavioral, Psychosocial, and Physiological:
Behavioral Way. Health behavior explains about 40 percent of premature mortality, as well as, substantial mobility and disability in the US, found a 2015 NIH “Measuring the Risks and Causes of Premature Death” study.
Some beneficial behaviors, such as exercise, per a 2006 CMAJ (NIH) study; consuming nutritious foods and a balanced diet, with natural supplementation, and adherence to medical regimens, per a 2012 Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health (NIH) study, tend to promote health and prevent illness, and emotional issues. While other harmful behaviors such as smoking, excessive weight gain, per a 2015 NIH “Health Risks of Being Overweight” study; drug abuse; and heavy alcohol consumption, per a 2011 NIH “Alcohol Dependence and Harmful Alcohol Use” study, tend to undermine health and well being.
A 2014 Wiley British journal of Health Psychology study showed that greater overall involvement with formal organizations like religious groups, and, informal ties, like family and friends, were associated with more favorable health behaviors.
Being in a good marriage, as shown in study above, having children, and ties to religious organizations, have all been linked to positive health behaviors. There are two exceptions when it comes to marriages, though, and those are lack of physical activity, and excessive weight gain of typically the male spouse after marriage, which tend to skew the positive results. However, this can be overcome with a loving, caring, and responsible wife.
Social ties influence health behavior because it exhibits some control of one’s health habits, per this 2011 Annual Review of Sociology (NIH) study. Humans are wired for social connection. Social ties influence health in part through health behavior, and this influence plays out across the life course. Quoting the study:
Indeed, social tie/health habit linkages represent intrinsically sociological terrain in that these social processes unfold over time in ways that influence population health and mortality.
For example, a wife might monitor, inhibit, regulate, and facilitate certain health behaviors that promote a partner’s health. Religious ties also appear to influence health behaviors, in part, through social requirements, and what’s expected of a member by the organization, according to another NIH-reviewed 2012 ISRN Psychiatry study.
The study confirmed that a large volume of research shows that people who are more religious/spirituality (R/S) have better mental health and adapt more quickly to health problems compared to those who are less R/S.
Social ties can instill a sense of responsibility and concern for others, that then lead to individuals to engage in behaviors that protect others, as well as their own health, according to a older 2001 NIH “Individuals and Families:
Models and Interventions” study. Social ties provide information and create norms and boundaries that further influence good health habits.
Psychosocial Way. Research across populations, such as a 2011 ResearchGate study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior suggest possible psychosocial mechanisms to explain how social ties promote physical and emotional health. Mechanisms include social influence/social comparison, social control, role-based purpose and meaning (mattering), self-esteem, sense of control, belonging and companionship, and perceived support availability, found a 2014 Health Psychology (NIH) study.
The social comparison theory states that individuals determine their own social and personal worth based on how they stack up against others they perceive as somehow faring better or worse, determined a 2011 American Psychological Association (APA) PsycNet “Social Comparison: Motives, Standards, and Mechanisms” research. According to Wikipedia “Control (Psychology)” study, social control is one’s perception regarding one’s ability to achieve outcomes, and the ability to select one’s thoughts and actions. The NIH addressed the psychosocial mechanism of self-esteem in this 2016 PLOS|ONE reviewed study involving linking the social environment to mental health in African Americans.
Social support refers to the emotional sustaining qualities of relationships, in the sense of that one is loved, cared for, and listened to, found a 2011 Journal of Health and Social Behavior (NIH) study. According to a 2007 MMC Psychiatry (NIH) study, social support may also have an indirect affect on health through good mental health, by reducing the impact of harmful stress, or by fostering a sense of meaning and purpose in life.
Supporting social ties trigger positive physiological reactions, like reduced blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones, reducing health risks, according to the American Psychological Association “Stress Effects On the Body” study.
Personal control exists too with certain individuals, and it involves those individuals who possess the innate ability to personally control their own behavioral actions. Social norms, or symbolic meaning attached to marriage and relationships like a Father with children may foster a greater sense of responsibility to stay healthy, thus promoting healthier lifestyles in a more fundamental way, found a 2006 U.S. Health and Human Services “The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children” research.
For example, more often than not, a really cute baby can actually diffuse the tension in a relationship, per this NIH-reviewed 2012 Ethology study. The cute features of a baby’s face is an evolutionary function that elicits caretaking and promotes human survival. Babies conjure up hormones that increase compassion in a parent, and this compassion for the baby can spill over to the other spouse as well. The brilliant Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky once wrote,
The soul is healed by being with children.
The vulnerability of a newborn child increases our own capacity to love unconditionally, and as our hearts expand into the role of mother or father, we become emotionally stronger and better spouses as well. Greater social connection may foster a sense of coherence, or meaning and purpose in life, which, in turn, enhances mental and emotional health, physiological processes, and physical health, according to a 2018 Sage Journals “A Meaningful Life is a Healthy Life” study.
The emotional support provided by social ties enhances psychological well being and mental health, and may reduce the risk of unhealthy behaviors resulting in poor physical health, according to a 2018 Mayo Clinic “Social support: Tap This Tool to Beat Stress” study.
Physiological Way. Physiologists, Socialogists, and Epidemiologists have contributed a great deal to our understanding of how social processes influence physiological processes that help explain the link between social ties and health.
For example, supportive interactions with others, benefit immune, endocrine, and cardiovascular function, and also reduce allostatic load, which reflects the wear and tear on the body, due, in part, to chronically overworked physiological systems engaged in stress responses., according to a 2006 Dialogues In Clinical Neuroscience (NIH) study. These processes unfold over the entire life course, which affects our health.
Emotionally supported childhood environments promote healthy development of regulatory systems, including immune, metabolic, autonomic nervous system, as well as, and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal hormones, with long-term consequences for adult health and well being, determined a 2013 Developmental Psychopathology (NIH) study.
A 2015 Child Adolescent Psychiatry Clinic of North America (NIH) study looked at the opposite effect of trauma or abuse related childhood experiences and the serious consequences for its victims and for society. Social support in adulthood reduces physiological responses such as cardiovascular reactivity to both anticipated and existing life stressors.
Continuing married adults experience a lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared with those who have experienced a marital loss, in part, due to the psychosocial supports presented by marriage. Quoting the 2017 Social Science Medicine (NIH) study:
After accounting for more than a dozen socioeconomic, psychosocial, behavioral, and physiological factors, we found that current marital status remained the most robust indicator of survival following a heart attack.
For more information on social ties, read this article ““Social Intelligence Definition”. How important is Nutrition role in Social Health Definition? Now that we’ve answered the question on the Social Health Definition. And, we’ve covered the vital importance of social engagement and how it affects every aspect of our physical, mental, and emotional health and well being throughout life.
Let us look at a natural basic requirement that has to be present, even before considering the social ties and their effect, good nutrition. Your brain is always “on”. It takes care of your thoughts, emotions, movements, your breathing and heartbeat, and your senses. Your brain works hard 24/7, even while you sleep. This simply means your brain and all of its processes, such as thinking and emotions, require a constant supply of fuel.
What you consume as food acts as a fuel which directly affects the structure and proper function of your brain, your mood, your social functioning, and your emotional well being. Eating high quality nutritious-rich foods that contain the right balance of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, essential amino acids, and omega 3 fatty acids, nourishes the brain, allow it to function properly, protects it from oxidative stress, or free radical damage, which damage brain cells.
Avoid unhealthy processed or refined foods, or precooked foods, high-sugar, processed meats, or high-sodium foods, and fried and fast-foods, with real, fresh, wholesome food whenever possible. These kinds of foods can not be properly assimilated by your body properly, which leads to chronic inflammation and a multitude of harmful health issues. In addition to worsening your body’s regulation of insulin, those types of food also promote oxidative stress in brain cells according to a 2019 International Journal of Molecular Science (NIH) study.
Multiple studies have shown a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars, sodium, and other additives, and inpared brain function, as explained in this article “What Is the Best Diet 2020”. Ultimately, if this condition persists, even worsening of symptoms of unhealthy mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression, are the results.
If your brain is deprived of nutritious-rich foods, or if free radicals, or damaging inflammation, occurs within brain cells, contributing to tissue injury, damaging unhealthy consequences are to be expected. What’s interesting, is that for many years, the medical community did not fully acknowledge the correlation between mood and emotions and food found a 2018 Harvard Health “Food and Mood: Is There A Connection?” study.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and appetite, mediate mood, and inhibit pain determined a 2020 Harvard Health “Nutritional psychiatry: Your Brain On Food” study. Since about 99 percent of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract (gut) which is lined with a hundred million nerve cells, or neurons, it makes sense that the inner works of your digestive system, do not just help you digest food, but also determine and guide your feeling, emotions, and your ability to be effective socially.
Have you ever gotten a “gut feeling” about something? According to a John Hopkins “The Brain-Gut Connection” study, for decades, researchers and doctors thought that anxiety and depression contributed to digestive problems like irritable bowl syndrome (IBS), or diarrhea, or constipation.
But, this study and others show that it may also be the other way around. These new findings may explain why a higher-than-normal percentage of people with IBS and functional bowel problems from eating high inflammation-causing foods, develop depression and anxiety. The study concluded,
That’s important, because up to 30 to 40 percent of the population has functional bowel problems at some point.
For more information on the “gut-brain axis”, read this article “How Digestive System Functions”.
What is even more striking, the function of these neurons, and the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin, is highly influenced by the “good” bacteria that make up your microbiome. These good bacteria play a significant role in your health and well being. The good bacteria protect the lining of your intestines, and provide a strong barrier against toxins, limit inflammation, improves how well you absorb nutrients, and keeps neurons flowing freely in the brain-gut pathway, which is confirmed by a 2018 Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology (NIH) study.
Traditional diets like the Mediterranian Diet, compared to our “western” diet, have shown that the risk of emotional disturbances and depression, is 25 percent to 35 percent lower in those who regularly consumed traditional diets.
Scientists, like this NIH-reviewed 2017 Nutrition Today study, account for these differences, because the traditional diets, like the Mediterranean diet, tend to be high in veggies (dark leafy greens), fruits, unprocessed grains, and fish and seafood, and natural fermented foods, fresh herbs and spices, and, in only smaller quantities, lean red meat and dairy, and the diet’s ability to prevent chronic diseases.
The Medi diet, by the way, was chosen as the number one overall nutritional diet for 2019 by the U.S. News and World Report, and again on January 4, 2020 the U.S. News and World Report released its new rankings of it’s 35 popular diets, with the Mediterranean Diet coming in ranked as the No. 1 overall diet for 2020 per a KSBY News Report. The Mediterranean Diet is followed by the DASH Diet and the Flexitarian Diet as top overall diets.
The foods in traditional diets tend to be eaten fresh also, like “fresh-off-the-vine” in most cases, maintaining the full nutritional value of the food. Traditional foods are also are void of harmful processed, refined foods, and sugars, which are all staples of the western diet.
Some of the unprocessed foods are naturally fermented, and therefore act as a natural probiotic for gut health found a 2019 Critical Review of Food Science and Nutrition (NIH) study. Fermentation uses bacteria and yeast to convert sugar in food to carbon dioxide, alcohol, and lactic acid, which protects food from spoiling, and adds a pleasant taste and texture. As we mentioned in the traditional diets, the foods are usually eaten very fresh, which is a huge advantage also, because the consumer is receiving the full nutritional benefits of the food, as designed by nature.
It’s generally accepted that there is as much as 50 percent loss in nutritional value in foods that aren’t eaten fresh, such as a 2008 International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition (NIH) study revealed. According to the study, the vitamin C content of broccoli was cut in half when shipped out of the country instead of eaten locally.
As is typical in western practices, the bulk of foods available for the general public for purchase are not fresh. The foods are represented as fresh and they look fresh, but, unfortunately they are most likely not fresh, because they have probably been under refrigeration for weeks at a time.
So, keep that in mind, you should make every effort to locate and buy foods that are fresh, if you expect to benefit from the full natural nutritional value of the food. So, what are these incredible nutrient-dense foods that will not only restore your physical health, but also your mental health?
- Lean Organic Meats. Meats should be non-GMO, grass-fed finished beef and bison, free-range finished poultry chicken, turkey and duck, lamb, and pork, brown cage-free eggs, and dairy milk, cheese, and butter (A). Any wild-game is great too.
- Wild-Caught Fish and Seafood. Fish should be cold-water (non farmed-raised) salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, sturgeon, shrimp, oysters, tuna, and many others (A).
- Fresh Certified Organic Fruits, Vegetables, Raw Nuts, and Edible Flower Seeds. Choose a wide range of fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds, especially berries, citrus, dark green leafy veggies, and bright colored fruits and veggies (A). You could also consider planting your own backyard garden of fresh nutrient-rich fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds, “killing 2 birds with one stone”, as the old saying goes. Not only will you be harvesting some of the most healthiest freshest foods available from your garden, but some pretty strenuous and healthy exercise building and maintaining your garden found a 2017 Elsevier Preventive Medicine Report (NIH) study.
- Fresh Whole Grains, High Fiber, Natural Fermented Foods, Herbs, Spices, Oils, and Antioxidant Drinks. Should be certified organic and GMO-free, and gluten-free complex carbs and whole-grains. Use at all meals; natural fermented foods such as kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, natural yogurt, fermented wine; fresh herbs and spices such as basil, oregano, rosemary, turmeric, and cilantro; monounsaturated plant oils like extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil; antioxidant-rich dark chocolate; antioxidants drinks such as espresso, infused fruit water, and fruit smoothies (A).
Checkout this blueberry-Maca smoothie.
- Alcohol. Beer or naturally fermented red wine is better for you, but any type is OK as long as it is used in moderation.
Advantage Of Supplementing Your Diet
You have been provided with a very unique Social Health Definition explaining the benefits of having strong healthy social connections, and its importance in promoting overall health and well being. What are your thoughts? Are you ready to join a church choir and not only enjoy the social benefits, but also the singing benefits according to a 2018 Perspective Public Health (NIH) study.
Or, how about joining a bird watching group, where you’ll benefit from new social contacts and being in nature with birds found a 2016 PLOS|ONE (NIH) study. We leave you with this short “Benefits of Socializing” (1) video and how being social cures anxiety rather easily, according to a 75-year study by Harvard Health. Please let us know, or if you have questions, ask them below.
(A) Follow these links for more in depth information, more documented studies, and to purchase any or all these incredible nutrient-dense foods that will being you to an optimal state of health and well being and give you the ability to really socialize.
(1) Andrew Mai Video