(NaturalNews) The saying goes that "no man is an island." While the fact that humans are social creatures is well-known and accepted, the effect that social relationships could have on physical, mental and emotional health could well be very much underestimated by most people.
Social relationships influence physical health in many ways
In the journal Science, dozens of studies were mentioned which revealed that supportive social relationships helped with various aspects of health. The former included spouses, family, friends and group membership, while the latter included healing from chronic and infectious diseases, post-surgery recovery, cardiovascular health and immunity.
On the flip side, lack of such social support elevated one's risk of death.
Broadly speaking, work and relationship satisfaction are crucial to good health and happiness. In healthy relationships, there is mutual giving and receiving, support and respect, as well as the working out of challenges and conflicts. The ability to share pain and suffering is another important part of healing, to help people realize they are not fighting their battles alone.
Family relationships, friendships, social groups and group therapy can all help to provide these supporting elements.
One study revealed that women suffering from breast cancer who took part in support group sessions once every week survived twice as long as those ladies who did not.
"There is overwhelming evidence that people who have few social contacts are more likely to get sick and less likely to recover from an illness," said Erik Peper, PhD, Associate Director of the Institute for Holistic Healing Studies at San Francisco State University.
One long-term piece of research found that persons with the least social ties were twice to thrice more likely to die of all causes as compared to those with the highest social connectedness. "Isolation and loneliness have been shown to result in immune problems in bereaved individuals who have recently lost their loved ones," said Steven Fahrion, PhD, co-founder of the Life Sciences Institute of Mind-Body Health, in Topeka, Kansas.
Social relationships affect mental and emotional health too
Social relationships also play a part in mental and emotional wellbeing, such as in the case of clinical depression. For example, in a 2013 study conducted at the University of Michigan which had looked at almost 5,000 American adults, it was found that a person's risk of major depression disorder was affected by the quality of his or her relationships with a spouse, family and friends, and this was regardless of the frequency of their social interactions.
Different aspects of one's social life - for example trusting and loving relationships, spending time with positive people, caring for pets, participating in group therapy and helping others - have all been found to help persons suffering from depression.
Physical touch helps too
Physical touch, such as in the form of hugs, also help, especially, it seems, for the very young. Infants, for example, exhibited better survival rates when they experienced handling and physical affection; at the same time, people also enjoyed improved psychological skills and functioning, better physical growth, enhanced immune function, and improved resistance to stress.
Helping others helps one's own health as well
According to Dr. Richard Schulze, helping others has been known to benefit persons who suffer from heart disease, neurological conditions, emotional disorders (depression, anxiety, stress-related conditions) and even cancer.
The bottom line is clear - anyone who wishes to enjoy tip-top physical, mental and emotional health needs to have healthy, positive social relationships, as does anyone who is battling a health condition, in particular potentially life-threatening ones such as cancer.
Sources for this article include:
Trivieri, Jr., Larry, and Anderson, John W. Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide. 2nd ed. New York, USA: Celestial Arts, 2002. Print.