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Social Support and Health


Around the world and in all cultures, the healthiest people belong to some type of community, have close friends, often feel a connection with all humanity, provide social support to others, and are able to ask for it for themselves when they need it.

 All forms of chronic and life-threatening health challenges are more prevalent when there is the least social support. In parts of the world where multigenerational families remain together, and where people live in closed communities where everyone is known and recognized as a valued member of the community, disease rates of all types are dramatically lower than in countries like the U.S., where a large segment of the population live alone and have less social support. Of course, living alone can certainly be healthy provided the person has a close circle of friends or family nearby, or works in a tight-knit community.

 Dr. Kenneth Pelletier,

Dr. Ken Pelletier

a world-renowned researcher at the Stanford Center for Research in Disease Prevention, concluded, “A sense of belonging and connection to other people appears to be a basic human need, as basic as food and shelter. In fact, social support may be one of the critical elements distinguishing those who remain healthy from those who become ill.” 

 A ten-year Australian study revealed that older people with a large circle of friends were 22 percent less likely to die over the period of the study. 

 Harvard researchers, in a 2007 study, found a strong association between social support and neurological health in older people. 

 In a substantial study of three thousand breast cancer patients, all of whom were nurses, completed in 2006, researchers found that women without close friends had a mortality rate of four times that of women with a close circle of friends. 

 In a Swedish study of 736 men who were followed for six years, those with close friendships had less heart disease. 

 There are literally hundreds of such studies proving the efficacy of social support to improve health.

 

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