This isn’t the first time that I’ve written about the benefits of social interactions in terms of health. And it likely won’t be the last! In fact, data collected in roughly 53,000 Americans over a 36 year time period show that both personal and impersonal interactions, that is, visits with relatives, neighbors or friends or in bars (personal) or memberships in in organization, sports clubs, youth groups, etc (impersonal) can have a significant impact on health.
Strangely, during the time of the study (which is published in the March/April issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion), significant declines were seen in impersonal and certain types of personal interactions. People were volunteering less or spending less time in cause-related organizations. And, people spent less time visiting neighbors.
The middle-agers happened to be the group with the largest income levels, highest workforce participating and greatest full time working percentage. And while they had opportunity costs when it came to time and how they chose to spend it when they weren’t working, it appeared that devoting more time to friendships, especially close friendships, was important to health. So was the time spent in health/sports clubs.
The takeway? Having friends or other interpersonal interactions tended to be associated with a higher probability of being in very good or excellent health.
However, timing is everything and this information was collected before the economic downswing and the loss of millions of jobs, especially among mid-lifers. Still, it does offer up an important message:
The cost of time may be greater than one believes. Be sure that part of your time allotment is spent cultivating and spending time with friends. They are critical to mental wellbeing, staving off depression, increasing longevity and reducing stress.
Speaking of which….it’s
Be sure to reach out and touch someone in your inner or outer circles who you’ve not interacted with of late. Call a friend, drop a note, extend a helping hand. That time allotment might be the best you spend today.