Facts with Hope
FACT: A lack of social ties is associated with increased mortality. Researchers at Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill analyzed data from 148 studies on health outcomes and social relationships, involving more than 300,000 men and women across the developed world, and found that those with poor social connections had on average 50% higher odds of death in the study's follow-up period (an average of 7.5 years) than people with more robust social ties.1
HOPE: Regularly spending time with others may be one of the most important things you can do for your health. The influence of social relationships on the risk of death was as powerful as smoking and alcohol consumption and exceeded the influence of other risk factors such as physical inactivity and obesity.
FACT: The Mental Health Foundation in the United Kingdom commissioned researchers to survey 2,256 adults to learn more about people’s experiences of loneliness. They found that one in ten adults (11%) said that they felt lonely often. They also noted that many people are embarrassed to admit to feeling lonely. This was highest among young adults (42%, compared to 30% of those aged 35-54 and 23% of those over 55).2
HOPE: The problem of loneliness in society is a prompt for our churches to take a closer look how well we are doing at building circles of support around those in our communities who are starving for relationships. A focus on developing friendships will not only improve their well-being, but also provide opportunities to introduce them to the greatest Friend of all.
FACT: Researchers who followed 1,138 seniors for an average of five years found that not only is socializing linked to mental and thinking ability, but also about how well one is able to live independently. Each one-point increase on the social activity score was linked to a 47% drop in the rate of decline in cognitive function.3
HOPE: God designed our brains and hearts to function best in the context of relationships. In fact, the phrase “one another” is used more than 70 times in the New Testament. With a growing demographic of older Americans, we can make a difference in their quality of life simply by spending time with “one another.”
FACT: In one of the most famous experiments on health and social life, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University exposed hundreds of healthy volunteers to the common cold virus, then quarantined them for several days. The study participants with more social connections and with more diverse social networks (work, sports teams, church) were less likely to develop a cold than the more socially isolated study participants.4
HOPE: Spending time with friends may be one of the easiest health strategies for boosting immune function. It's inexpensive, it requires no special equipment, and we can engage in it in many ways.
- Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B. & Layton, J. B. (2010). Social relationships and mortality risk: A meta-analytic review. PLoS Med 7(7). doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316.
- Griffen, J. (2010). The lonely society? Mental Health Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/content/assets/PDF/publications/the_lonely_society_report.pdf?view=Standard
- James, B. D., Wilson, R. S., Barnes, L. L. & Bennett, D. A. (2011). Late-life social activity and cognitive decline in old age. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society 17(6), 998-1005. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1355617711000531
- Cohen, S., Brissette, I., Skoner, D. P. & Doyle, W. J. (2000). Social integration and health: The case of the common cold. Journal of Social Structure 1, 1-10. Retrieved from http://www.cmu.edu/joss/content/articles/volume1/cohen.html