Do you feel healthy, both physically and mentally? If so, according to a new study in the August American Journal of Preventive Medicine, you’re also likely to be involved in your community and feel a sense of belonging to it — characteristics referred to as “social capital,” which include factors like community participation, volunteer work and comfort within a neighborhood.
The study focused on 944 sets of twins, ages 25 and 74, from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the U.S. More than half of participants rated their health as “very good” to “excellent.” Researchers found that “social trust, sense of belonging and community participation were each significantly associated with health outcomes” — regardless of genetics or upbringing, according to study coauthor Takeo Fujiwara. He added that 95 percent of participants saw an “absolute connection” between their good health and level of social trust.
The implication? “What society or community can do may change the health of residents, regardless of predisposing factors,” says Fujiwara.
The study did not find any effect from social capital on rates of major depression, however, and certainly there are plenty of other factors at work in determining one’s level of health — a dangerous occupation, inability to afford health insurance, and high levels of stress, to name a few.
Nevertheless, in a time when many Americans report feeling more disconnected than ever, Fujiwara and friends’ findings are an excellent reminder of the importance of maintaining strong social networks for overall health and happiness.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 17 Jun 2008
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Grinnell, R. (2008). Community Connections Mean Better Health, Study Shows. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 6, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2008/06/17/community-connections-mean-better-health-study-shows/