We all know how important it is to have a good group of friends or to feel close to your family members, especially in difficult times like the covid-19 pandemic. Scientists from the Universities of Kent, Coventry and Nottingham Trent set out to go further and quantify the impact of social connections on human physical and mental health.
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To arrive at the results, more than 13,000 people from 122 different countries were interviewed between March and May 2020, at the height of the social isolation caused by the coronavirus. The researchers asked participants about their attachment to close social circles, such as friends and family, and their attachment to broader groups, such as national and global—to see if they felt connected to humanity more specifically.
family and health
Health behaviors related to the pandemic and mental health, linked to the well-being and social relationships of the individuals surveyed, were also evaluated. Interestingly, the results showed that family bonding was positively associated with healthy behaviors such as frequent hand washing, wearing masks, and accessing social distancing — while bonding with outside groups showed no correlation.
This is reflected in the data obtained by the study: 46% of participants with strong family ties washed their hands very often, while 32% with few family ties showed the behavior. Of those who had no family ties, 54% reported never wearing masks during the pandemic, a considerably high number.
Of all respondents, only 27% had strong family ties, but they accounted for 73% of those who socially distanced, 35% of those who washed their hands a lot and 36% of those who wore masks. This may be a reflection of the desire to take care of the physical health of family members, avoiding tragedies for their loved ones. Regarding mental health and general well-being, family prevalence was not exclusive.
invest in friends
According to the scientists, strong bonds with close social circles, as well as broader groups, were very positive, leading to healthier behaviors and better psychological well-being — at least according to the volunteers’ reports — as well as fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety. There is more! The greater the number of groups with which individuals had stronger ties, the better the behaviors and reports of well-being.
With this, the study recommends that health authorities focus messages related to public health also in smaller networks, especially in times of crisis, encouraging the population to share healthy behaviors with their close ones in an exemplary way.
This comes from social connection and the need to belong to a group, leading us to worry and imitate the behavior of the people we live with. This is true even for abstract groups such as countries and governments. We need to feel a part of something, which raises the importance of close ties with our family, friends, and social groups. In other words, we need each other.
Source: Psychological Science