People Having Social Groups Stay Healthy

SYDNEY – If you are part of a social group, your are more likely to stay away from conditions like stroke, dementia and even the common cold.

Well, new research by researchers at the Universities of Exeter and Queensland, Australia, suggests that membership of social groups has a positive impact on health and well-being.

The researchers highlights the importance of belonging to a range of social groups, of hanging onto social groups, and of building new social groups in dealing with life changes such as having a stroke and being diagnosed with dementia.

The researchers reviewed a number of previous studies, which identified a link between group membership, and physical and mental health.

Commenting on the latest work, Professor Alex Haslam, of the University of Exeter, said: “We are social animals who live and have evolved to live in social groups. Membership of groups, from football teams to book clubs and voluntary societies, gives us a sense of social identity. This is an indispensable part of who we are and what we need to be in order to lead rich and fulfilling lives. For this reason groups are central to mental functioning, health and well-being.”

The researchers said that a 2008 study showed that being able to maintain valued group memberships played as important a role in positive recovery as an ability to overcome cognitive difficulties (e.g., problems with memory and language).

A 2009 study showed that those who participated as a group in decisions related to the decoration of communal areas used those areas 57 percent more over the next month and were far happier as a result.

Another 2009 study found that a strong sense of identity associated with perceived membership of social groups, was a much better predictor of residents’ well-being than their level of dementia.

The study has been published in Scientific American Mind, and the findings were presented at the British Science Festival.

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