As we get older, we are often confronted with a wide variety of age-related health problems that can affect our quality of life. This includes pain in our joints and muscles, a decline in our endurance, flexibility and mobility, and the advent of chronic conditions that can have a significant impact on our overall well-being.
In addition to the myriad of physical ailments, there are a number of emotional and psychological concerns that can impact our health. In fact, medical science is becoming increasingly aware of the importance that our emotional health has on our physical health, whereby such conditions as depression and even loneliness are rightfully getting more attention. This is especially true as we age.
With this in mind, researchers now realize that the social connections with people around us have tangible health benefits. According to a new study, researchers believe that these benefits can continue to be beneficial even as these social networks change over time. In other words, even if a person is not socially active, the benefits of having social connections can still be achieved when these relationships are developed later in life.
The current study, published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, sought to gain a better understanding of this phenomenon. Researchers analyzed data from over 1600 adults who were over the age of 60 years. Subjects were asked about their level of social engagement over the course of 12 months with friends and family members, including participation in social events such as meetings, clubs, and community gatherings.
They were then asked questions designed to measure their physical and mental abilities. What they found was that adults who ended up with high levels of social engagement had less cognitive and physical limitations than adults whose social engagement was low. The benefits were seen in socially active people whose social networks decreased only slightly, as well as socially inactive people whose social lives increased significantly. The lowest level of cognitive and physical abilities were seen in people who had low levels of social engagement that decreased even further over time.
The data supports previous research that established a link between our social interactions and our health. The current study describes how changes in our social lives can play a role, as well. This is an important consideration because as we age, changes often occur in our social standing, including the death of a spouse or acquaintance, or moving to a new location. The data is also important because people have some level of control over their social lives.
If you suffer from feelings of isolation or depression, consult with a professional and reach out to a family member or friend. For more information about depression, visit the website for Everyday Health.