This research, published in 2010 set out to examine just how important our social interactions are to our physical health and indeed to our very survival.
It has analysed data from 148 independent studies from across the world which were all selected against pre-determined criteria and then their results were collated – which forms the basis of a meta-analysis.
The researchers were interested in in the impact of social interaction on our risk of death (through disease – suicide was not included in this analysis) by asking 3 main questions
The importance of our social interactions has been seemingly well established in the literature since the 1980s!
And this meta-analysis – which has looked at nearly 30 times the number of studies than in previous research has shown:
We have empirical evidence to support the conclusion that insufficient social relationships are an independent risk factor for mortality.
The benefits of improved social interactions remained consistent across a number of factors including age, sex, initial health status and cause of death.
Studying something as complex and nuanced as relationships is difficult and does not lend itself to double blinded placebo controlled trials (considered the gold standard in scientific research). However, as this paper points out, we should not discount the amount of high quality evidence that is presented within this analysis. After all, studies researching the effects of smoking represent “the most extensively documented cause of disease ever investigated in the history of biomedical research’’ despite being unable to ethically blind smokers and non smokers.
And it is now, more than ever, absolutely imperative that we – doctors and patients – all pay attention to the importance of our social networks, and this research to guide our approach in our post pandemic recovery.
A time when so many of us have really felt the impact of social isolation, which may be affecting not only our mental, but our physical health too, and indeed our very survival.
To read the article in full click HERE
Or to listen to a discussion on The Smart Couple podcast, with the author of this paper, Dr Julianne Holt, click HERE
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