social network health

A good Social Health Definition is having close personal ties and groups or organizations ties that result in overall physical and mental health.  Studies 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.  Without social ties, distress emerges and health fails.  For example, studies, like this National Institutes of Health (NIH) study, showed that people’s happiness depends on the happiness of others with whom they are connected with 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?  One example is, the NIH 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 a drastic affect.  Social isolation of otherwise healthy, well-functioning individuals, eventually results in psychological and physical disintegration, and even death, per this Scientific America study of neuroscientists making a case against solitary confinement.  Over the past few decades, 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?

Social 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.

Social Relationships Benefit Health

healthy social network connection

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 Berkman and Syme study in 1979, 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.

In addition, social ties also reduced mortality risks among adults with medical conditions. For example, one study by the NIH referenced above, 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, had 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.

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.  Social engagement is associated with a stronger immune system, especially for older adults.  This means that you are better able to fight off colds, the flu, and even some types of cancer.

Better Mental Health.  Interacting with others boosts feelings of well-being and decreases feelings of depression.

social network health wellbeing

Research like this Mayo Clinic 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 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.

Marriage is perhaps, the most studied social ties connection.  Recent studies, such as this Harvard Health 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

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% of premature mortality, as well as, substantial mobility and disability in the US.

Couples Enjoying Healthy Social Dancing

Some beneficial behaviors, such as exercise, consuming nutritious foods and a balanced diet, with natural supplementation, and adherence to medical regimens, tend to promote health and prevent illness, and emotional issues.  While other harmful behaviors such as smoking, excessive wright gain, drug abuse, and heavy alcohol consumption, tend to undermine health and well being.

A 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 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.

Friends Being Social Enjoying Fun Meal Together

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 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.  Social ties provide information and create norms and boundaries that further influence good health habits.

Psychosocial Way.  Research across populations 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.

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.  According to Wikipedia, 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 study involving linking the social environment to mental health in African Americans.

Social Group Choir Singing Healthy Song

Social support refers to the emotional sustaining qualities of relationships, in the sense of that one is loved, cared for, and listened to.  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.  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 with children may foster a greater sense of responsibility to stay healthy, thus promoting healthier lifestyles in a more fundamental way.  For example, more often than not, a really cute baby can actually diffuse the tension in a relationship, per this NIH 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.

Socially Healthy Group Taking Moderate Exercise

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 the Mayo Clinic.

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 an 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.  An 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 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.

Friends Being Social Listening To Music Sharing A Good Time

For more information on social ties, read this article “What Is Social Intelligence About?

Important 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 fuel directly affect the structure and proper function of your brain, your mood, and your emotional well being.  Eating high quality nutritious-rich foods that contain the right balance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, 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.

fresh nutritious meats and fish

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.

Multiple studies have shown a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and other additives, and inpared brain function.  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.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and appetite, mediate mood, and inhibit pain.  Since about 99% 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 and emotions.

Have you ever gotten a “gut feeling” about something? According to a John Hopkins 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 A Digestive System Function“.

fresh nutritious fruits and veggies

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 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% to 35% lower in those who regularly consumed traditional diets.  Scientists, like this NIH 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.

The foods in traditional diets tend to be eaten fresh also, 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. 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 I 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.

Healthy Social Nutrient-Dense Mediterranean Diet Ingredients

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 an 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?

healing food maca

Advantage Of Supplementing Your Diet

Because of the fact of living in the western world, and it being sometimes difficult and inconvenient, to routinely eat fresh nutritious foods, it is recommended that, as added assurance, you supplement your diet with a natural Adaptogen called Peruvian Maca.  P Maca is an all-natural, organic, non-GMO whole nutritious food, and is a great source of complex carbs, plant protein, fatty acids, amino acids, antioxidants, omega 3s, vitamins, minerals, trace elements, high in fiber, and bioactive plant compounds, but low in saturated fats, that are all necessary for proper well-balanced nutrition for the human body.  For a complete detailed explanation on all the wide-ranging benefits of P Maca, please refer to the following articles

You have been provided with a 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.  Or, how about joining a bird watching group, where you’ll benefit from new social contacts and being in nature with birds.  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 me 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