Social connections play key role in health picture
May 11 2004 12:00 AM ET
Researchers at Emory University and Wake Forest University report that new studies show that belonging to a club, attending religious services, or volunteering may contribute as much to optimal health as quitting smoking or getting more exercise. "Complete health may be achieved through ways other than, or in addition to, those focusing on individuals' patterns of exercise, eating, and smoking," the researchers told Health Behavior News Service. "Social behaviors have been largely overlooked in health promotion practice, yet they may hold significant promise for enhancing individual and population health." The researchers studied survey results from 3,032 adults and defined complete health as overall feelings of well-being and the absence of physical and mental diseases. Individuals who were determined to be completely healthy more often participated in regular exercise, maintained a healthy weight, and were nonsmokers. But the study also found that individuals deemed completely healthy were also more likely to have regular social activities than those classified as being in intermediate or poor health. According to the researchers engagement in social activities leads to fewer mental health problems and an increased sense of well-being. Study subjects who were classified as completely ill by the researchers were the least likely to engage in social or civic activities. The full study appears in the American Journal of Health Behavior.