Yikes! I’m trying to figure out how long I’ve been socially isolated and it’s in the range of 18-to-25 years. I’ll be 57 in October, so that’s most of my adult life. It’s been for lots of reasons — Margaret’s multiple sclerosis, my undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea (because it reduced my energy and earning power), my uppityness about equality for us as a lesbian couple and for Margaret as a wheelchair user — which, I am not making this up, got us run out of the diversity-supportin’ lesbian community by lesbians at the top of the disability rights movement — heck, I’ll even toss in feng shui because of the breathtaking whack our social circle took after we moved into a condo where most of the “helpful people” area was missing.
I just promised in my “Save Stogie from foreclosure” post that I would start discussing my various challenges so that it is possible for my gentle readers to see how what I write matches my life. I wasn’t expecting one of them to be in tonight’s Hot Air Headlines. Social isolation already was known to have a negative effect on mental health. New research shows that social isolation affects physical health, too, across all age groups:
HAVING a poor social network is just as likely to send you to an early grave as smoking or alcohol abuse.
A scientific review of 148 previous studies involving more than 300,000 people found that those with adequate social relationships were 50 per cent more likely to be alive after an average follow-up period of nearly eight years, compared to more socially isolated people.
Being socially disconnected — a loose term usually taken to mean having few good friends or strong family relationships — was said to be equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes per day and to heavy drinking — of six units of alcohol a day — the scientists involved said.
It was also worse for someone’s health than such better-recognised health risks as avoiding exercise, and twice as bad for one’s health as being obese.
Eeek! I’m obese, too — but I do exercise because it helps me think more clearly and get more done. I’ll explain my new diet regime another time, but I’ve lost over 13 pounds in the last 40 days. If that seems modest to you, bear in mind it represents a shift of about 1,000 calories per day. And then you try it.
As for how a social network improves its members health, the scientists speculated there were two mechanisms:
The support of other people may reduce the harmful effects of stress, and the influence of others may also encourage behaviour that contributes to good health.
They also speculated that isolation could reduce immune function.
Julianne Holt-Lunstad, one of Dr. Smith’s colleagues, said: “When someone is connected to a group and feels responsibility for other people, that sense of purpose and meaning translates to taking better care of themselves and taking fewer risks.”
I would not have survived as a blogger without having met my fellow conservative bloggers in person at CPAC in 2009. It also was a big boost to go to CPAC 2010 and make more friends. Blogging, Facebook and Twitter are giving me access to social connections I wouldn’t otherwise have — they are a huge blessing.
I’m amused that Holt-Lunstad’s explanation of how social connectedness makes us healthier is so altruistic, since I gather from watching television that people who take very good care of themselves do so with the intention of improving and expanding their social connections — including, but not limited to, what are the kids calling it these days? is it still “getting laid”?