Having healthy relationships with other people is important to your health and well-being, and it has been shown to affect your physical and mental wellness. In fact, it is said that mental health is a major contributor to the development of physical health. It also shows that the importance of social ties can reduce the risk of developing health disparities.
Mental health is a pivotal mechanism to shape physical health
Throughout the life course, social relationships play a central role in emotional support. They can reduce the effects of stress, improve psychological well-being, and enhance physiological processes. Moreover, they contribute to a sense of purpose in life.
The social environment that children and adolescents are exposed to in the early years has long-lasting effects on health. For example, strained relationships in childhood can create a cascade of factors that undermine mental and physical health.
Socioeconomic status (SES) is a reliable predictor of life outcomes. It incorporates more than income; it encompasses a person’s perceptions of their social status, as well as opportunities in society. Higher SES is associated with better health, optimism, self-esteem, social problems, and delinquent behavior symptoms.
The relationship between social ties and health is complex and nonlinear. While some studies focus on one or two mechanisms, other studies indicate that multiple mechanisms may explain the link between social ties and health.
Relationships increase social support and health-relevant information
Throughout the life course, relationships affect health through multiple psychosocial and physiological pathways. Studies suggest that social connections and support improve self-esteem, reduce anxiety, and increase trust, all of which are good for mental health. They may also help people recover from illness.
Researchers have been studying the relationship between social connections and health for decades. These studies have demonstrated that lack of social relationships is associated with a host of adverse health outcomes. The most impressive evidence comes from prospective studies of mortality across industrialized nations. In the most recent study, researchers tested the association between social relationships and objective health measures.
The most obvious effect is that individuals with the lowest level of involvement in social networks are at an increased risk of death. The magnitude of this effect is similar to the impact of smoking. However, the study also found that adults who were socially isolated had a 2.4 times greater risk of cardiac death.
Policies to reduce the risk of social isolation
Currently, most research examining the risk of social isolation has focused on older adults in community-dwelling settings. However, the same research has not been conducted in long-term care (LTC) settings. Therefore, future research should investigate the risks of isolation in LTCs, as well as possible methods to mitigate them.
Several studies have examined various indicators for the risk of social isolation. However, most of them are not rigorously tested for reliability in LTC populations.
A comprehensive global public-health response is needed to address this issue. A comprehensive study of the various factors that contribute to social isolation will increase our understanding of this problem and may contribute to targeted, effective interventions.
Some of the risk factors for isolation are unique to LTC homes. Examples of these include loss of independence and a lack of supportive networks.
Other factors that contribute to social isolation are discrimination, language barriers, and physical distance. The NASEM has suggested a number of ways to mitigate the risk, including connecting patients to community resources.
Impact of social ties on health disparities
Several factors shape the formation and maintenance of social ties. These include the broader social context, the health of others in the network, and the characteristics of the ties. The quality of ties may vary by race, age, gender, and socioeconomic status.
Using data from surveys, researchers have examined the relationship between social ties and health. They have shown that adults who have more social ties have better health and live longer than their peers who have less ties. They have also found that the quality of ties affects the risk of serious health conditions.
In particular, marriage has been linked to health benefits. Studies have shown that African Americans tend to have fewer economic gains from marriage, and they experience more marital strain. This can lead to reduced access to health care and other resources.
Another factor is the size of the social network. Women tend to have larger confidant networks than men. For example, women with high school degrees are twice as likely to divorce within 10 years as women with no college education.