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Can Social Health Predict Overall Health?

Andrea Savard
February 9, 2023
5 min read

How Social Health Predicts Health Over a Lifetime

Remember the game"Jenga"? Think about each wooden Jenga block as components of your wellness. They’re the pieces—physical, nutritional, emotional health, and so on—that come together holistically to give you a healthy sense of self and well-being. Think of your social health as one of the pieces in the Jenga tower.

Social health is a strong predictor of overall health and well-being. It can provide you with a network of support that helps fend off loneliness, provides a sense of belonging in your community, and even helps protect your physical health. The Harvard Study of Adult Development is a rich, long-running study on health and happiness.  Beginning in 1938, it has collected data for nearly 80 years!

Some of the biggest takeaways:

  • The key to healthy aging is relationships, relationships, relationships.
  • The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80.
  • Relationship satisfaction at middle age is a stronger predictor of physical health than cholesterol levels.
  • Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.

Social Health Predicts Health Over a Lifetime

How does your social network affect your overall health—specifically mental health—in adolescence, adulthood, and as a senior? The researchers measured three factors and found they were all strong predictors of mental health outcomes throughout each life stage. These predictors—the potential Jenga blocks or lack thereof in your wellness tower—were social isolation, social connection, and social trust.

Younger People: Social connection was the strongest predictor for adolescents. When young people have strong social ties and a sense of community, they report better mental health status. The opposite is true for social isolation. Young people who feel isolated experience a decline in their mental-health status.

Older Adults: Social trust is the main driver for this group. If older individuals can’t trust their relationships, their mental health suffers. For the elderly population in particular, this makes sense when considering their dependence on others to maintain wellness. As adults age, their social networks naturally, and perhaps drastically, decline from the deaths of friends, family, and acquaintances. As the circle shrinks, the influence of remaining relationships increases. So, if those connections aren’t trustworthy, social and mental health of the individual will deteriorate.

The Takeaway?? Maintain Your Social Health for a Long, Happy Life

Strengthen Your Social Health With Us

There are many ways to stave off isolation, stay connected, and strengthen your social ties. We invite you to join our community at FirePower. Bring your family or become part of ours. Over the years people have come for the fitness but stay for the community.

Hope to see you soon!


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