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Apart from the many benefits of being supported by a very strong social network a new study asks the question if actually having more friends can actually make you healthier.
The recent study that was published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine tracked a group of international students that underwent a huge social change as moving to a different place. Over a five-month period these students participated by responding to questionnaires that measured their social integration, as well as how lonely they felt. They also monitored their heart rates to detect changes in what’s known as high-frequency heart rate variability.
They do this tracking of heart rates because it will allow the researchers to determine how well the participants’ parasympathetic nervous system is functioning.
“Other research has shown that individuals with a lower heart rate variability are at increased risk for the development of poor health, including greater risk for cardiac diseases. Therefore, decreases in heart rate variability are bad for you,” says Jean-Philippe Gouin, lead study author.
The results showed that those students who were able to build a better support were healthier overall. By forming friendships and getting involved in new social networks during those first months increased their heart rate variability compared to those who remained socially isolated whose rates decreased.
“This study shows that such prolonged social isolation can have a negative effect on physical health by impacting our parasympathetic functioning. That applies not just to international students but to anyone moving to a new country or city or anyone experiencing major social changes,” Gouin says.
Socially integrating yourself quickly, especially in a new place, reaching out and making friends will keep you healthier in the long run. It is hard but well worth it.
Socialising won’t just keep you healthier but could also aid your intellectual performance.