Social Groups Play an Important Role in Overall Health and Well-Being

Social groups may be good for your health, according to new research by the Universities of Exeter and Queensland, Australia. Study results suggest that the quality of a person’s social life could have a greater impact on health and well-being than diet and exercise.

Science Daily recently posted a release on this study, which suggested that being a member of a social group can significantly reduce the risk of conditions like stroke, dementia, and even the common cold. Researchers involved with this study reviewed a number of previous studies that identify a link between group membership and physical and mental health.

“We are social animals who live and have evolved to live in social groups. Membership of groups, from football teams to book clubs and voluntary societies, gives us a sense of social identity. This is an indispensable part of who we are and what we need to be in order to lead rich and fulfilling lives. For this reason groups are central to mental functioning, health and well-being,” said Professor Alex Haslam of the University of Exeter.

Conclusions are drawn from a number of studies, including a 2008 study that showed that group memberships played as important a role in the positive recovery from a stroke as did the ability to overcome cognitive difficulties. For every group membership an individual was able to maintain after a stroke, his or her life satisfaction increased by 12 percent.

A 2009 study examined residents entering a new care home and found that those who participated as a group in decisions related to decoration of communal areas used those areas 57 percent more and were far happier.

Another 2009 study evaluated the impact of group interventions of 73 people residing in care. Those participating in a reminiscence group showed a 12 percent increase in memory performance after six weeks. Those not participating in the group showed no change.

Professor Jolanda Jetten from the University of Queensland said, “New research shows just how important groups and social identity are to well-being. This is something that people often overlook in the rush to find medical solutions to problems associated with ageing, but it is time that these factors were taken much more seriously.”

There is still hope.

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