When you thank your friends and family this holiday season, the reasons to do so may extend beyond good wishes, and actually benefit you and your health. Study after study has shown that social connections – through family, friends or with companion animals – seem to pay off in terms of good health, longevity and even prolonged survival among patients with very serious diseases. Some evidence linking good health with strong ties to family and friends includes:
- The immune system’s natural killer cell activity is negatively affected by three "distress indicators" – one of which is lack of social support.
- One study of 75 medical students found that those who were lonely had more sluggish natural killer cells that help destroy cells infected with virus and cancer cells than students who were social.
- Research has shown that people who care for companion animals have less illness than people who do not. Companion animals’ owners also recover from serious illness faster.
- Susceptibility to heart attacks appears to correlate with how often people use the words "I," "me" and "mine" in casual speech.
- Believe it or not, studies show that people who get out and spend more time with others during cold and flu season actually get fewer episodes of colds or flu than those who choose to be alone.
- Being grateful – and expressing that gratitude – for what you have has been associated with both physical and emotional health.
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