Why Social Interaction is Critical for Both Physical and Mental Health

A new meta-study of social isolation has come out. It looks at data from 148 different studies with over 300,000 participants. The conclusion is that social isolation can seriously impact your ability to survive. In fact, social isolation can be compared to smoking 15 cigarettes a day for how seriously it seems to negatively impact your health and morbidity.

While this is not really a simple nor straightforward matter, there are studies that indicate isolation is stressful and takes a psychological toll on people. Many people need sounding boards to work out their problems. This is not just an emotional issue, it is a practical one. Humans working together are more able to solve difficult problems.

When you have a health crisis or a personal problem, a strong social group can help make sure you get the care you need. People with cancer who have a strong social network do better. There are many people to make sure small tasks get done, that the person gets driven by someone else to their appointments and that there is someone to talk with to distract them from their misery.

As people get older and their memory and physical abilities begin to fail them, friends and family often play a crucial role in making sure their lives continue to work. In fact, some people die not long after being removed from their social network.

Of course, these are observational studies. So, for example, although depression and social isolation are strongly correlated, it is a chicken and egg problem in that we don’t know which comes first. Does depression cause social isolation? Or does social isolation cause depression?

In some cases, regardless of which actually came first, this can become a downward spiral. Isolation can go hand in hand with deteriorating physical and mental health such that you don’t know how to reach out in order to stop it. It can seem like no one would like you anyway, or like it just takes too much energy to try to do anything. This can create a positive feedback loop where isolation and poor mental and emotional health just breeds more of the same until you can seem to find no way out.

Additionally, it is also well known that bad social connections can be bad for your well being. Consider the fact that when someone is murdered, police look first to their closest connections for possible suspects. Also, consider the standard advice to people with substance abuse problems that they should “change your people, your places and your things.” So, if you wish to live a long and healthy life, choose your friends wisely and try to make whatever social connections you have as positive as possible.

Creating a healthy social network is not a simple matter, and the reasons why one may be lacking a vibrant social network can be complex. But the evidence is clear that social isolation itself strongly correlates to poorer physical and mental health, as well as shorter lifespans.

Advertisements

Why Staying Inside is Bad for Your Health

For decades now, the evolution and spread of home electronics has encouraged people to spend more time inside. With the growth of remote working and the gig economy, more and more people are spending their entire working lives indoors. When taken to extremes, staying indoors can exacerbate a wide variety of health problems. Whether you are more vulnerable to mental or physical problems, the benefits of getting outdoor time deserve adequate recognition.

During late fall and winter, it is particularly important to find time for outdoors relaxation. These are the times of year when people naturally tend to stay inside. With the rise of central heating and other modern amenities, it has become far too normal for people to stay rooted indoors all year long. Although modern homes are designed to circulate air, it is all too common circulation systems to work poorly. As a result, indoor air can quickly become stale and unhealthy. The cheaper ventilation systems most people use can become clogged fairly easily. During the times of year when people generally keep their windows closed, indoor air can build up dangerously high amounts of dust, allergens and germs. When you breath stale indoor air, you never know what kinds of disgusting things you might be ingesting into your body. Mold and cockroach dander are two of the unhealthy substances that might linger in your home’s air without your knowledge.

Opening windows and using free-standing air filtration systems are two proactive steps you can take to improve the indoor air quality in your home. Spending time outdoors is an even cheaper and more effective way to improve the air you breathe and reduce your chances of illness. If you live in a built-up area with lots of traffic, you might have to walk or drive an appreciable distance to find a pristine outdoor area where you can breathe easily. Never doubt that making an effort to enjoy the outdoors is almost always a fine idea.

Crucially, staying indoors for long periods of time can negatively impact your mental health. Cabin fever is a very real phenomenon that occurs when people become cooped up and experience mental stress. While it is typically associated with winter time, this type of stress can impact people at any time of year. Symptoms of cabin fever can range from mild to debilitating. There is no hard and fast rule for how much outdoor time you’ll need in order to avoid cabin fever. If you are generally happy and joined with people you love spending time with, you could potentially spend long periods of time indoors without damaging mental effects. However, these ideal situations are all too rare and fleeting. Most people experience anxiety and phobias as part of their ordinary lives. To play it safe, acquire a warm jacket so you you can spend time outside each and every day, all year long.

Why Short Walks After You Eat Can Be Life Changing

Research studies suggest that by incorporating a walk into your daily schedule after you eat a meal, you can drastically reduce your risk of developing type-2 diabetes. In fact, even if you take a shorter walk immediately after you eat a meal for three times a day, this can be just as effective at improving your overall health as taking one longer walk a day.

The reason why walks are particularly effective after eating a meal is that they can help to stave off spikes in blood pressure levels, which typically occur after eating a meal. Scientists have found that short, 15-minute walks following a meal are particularly effective for people who are overweight because they maximize their stamina without wearing them out too quickly. Because walking can be adapted to any fitness level, it is also highly recommended for the elderly.

The way that short walks help to regulate blood pressure levels is that the muscle contractions in the legs during a walk can counteract the effect. This is particularly pronounced in older people. While other types of exercise following a meal can have a similar effect, walking seems to be the most adaptable and low-impact form of exercise for people to incorporate into their daily routines.

If you could only make time for a walk after one meal a day, the best one to choose would be dinner because this is generally the largest meal of the day. Researchers also suggest that laying down or taking a nap is one of the worst things that someone can choose to do following a meal because it makes you more susceptible to spikes in blood sugar levels. In addition, you should try to reduce your portion sizes for dinner in order to reduce your risk of eating foods that are high in sugar right before laying down to go to bed for the night.