The greater the level of social interaction, the lower the risk of disease. In other words, an adolescent who’s popular at school, captain of the football team and coveted by girls would be less susceptible to having health problems than the colleague who spends his break time alone. And this is valid for all ages according to a study at the University of North Carolina and the University of Renmin, in China.
On the other hand, scientists observed that the lack of social interaction is associated to a very high health risk in specific stages of life. In adolescence, social isolation increases the risk of inflammation by the same magnitude as physical inactivity, and the effect of social isolation on hypertension exceeded that of diabetes in old age. Physiological impacts of social relationships emerge uniquely in adolescence and midlife and persist into old age.
Based on data from four nationally representative samples of the US population, researchers implemented an innovative system to assess the association between different types of social relationships – social integration, social support and social tension – and biomarkers of physical health – C-reactive protein, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, waist circumference and body mass index – in adolescence and young, middle and late adulthood. In the end, they compared results and made the respective associations in all stages of life for each person studied.
The graphs below illustrate that individuals with a greater level of social connection early on had lower values in the four biomarkers of physical health (C-reactive protein, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, waist circumference and body mass index).
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