A Helping Hand Could Be Good For Health
When it comes to social support, helping your significant other, family, and friends may be just as beneficial to your health as it is to those receiving that support. For one recent study, researchers at Ohio State University reviewed data from more than 1,000 healthy adults ages 34 to 84 who were participating in the large follow-up of the National Survey of Midlife Development in the U.S. The volunteers completed questionnaires about their social lives and answered questions about how much they could rely on their friends, family, or spouse for help. Two years later, the respondents underwent various blood tests, including one that measured interleukin-6 (IL-6), a marker of inflammation that is associated with an increased risk of many chronic conditions, including cardiovascular disease and cancer.
The researchers found that people who reported having positive social relationships in which they believed they provided higher levels of support and giving were also more likely to have lower blood levels of IL-6. In other words, positive social relationships were associated with lower IL-6 among people who perceive they can give more support in those relationships. “It may be that when people believe they can give more support to friends and family, these relationships are especially rewarding and stress-relieving, which reduces inflammation,” explains the lead researcher. The results were published online in advance of the February 2022 issue of Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
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