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People Who Join Groups Better Off Physically, Mentally, Emotionally

People Who Join Groups Better Off Physically, Mentally, EmotionallyNew research further bolsters the positive effects of social contacts, finding that participation in different social groups can improve mental health and help a person cope with stressful events.

The active involvement also leads to better physical health, improving an individual’s ability to withstand — and recover from — physical challenges.

Belonging to groups, such as networks of friends, family, clubs and sport teams, improves mental health because groups provide support, help you to feel good about yourself and keep you active.

But belonging to many different groups might also help to make you psychologically and physically stronger. People with multiple group memberships cope better when faced with stressful situations such as recovering from stroke and are even more likely to stay cold-free when exposed to the cold virus.

Drs. Janelle Jones and Jolanda Jetten of the University of Queensland in Australia were interested in how group memberships might give people the resilience to face novel and aversive challenges.

In one study, they asked a dozen soldiers undergoing ice-camp training to wear heart rate monitors while experiencing their first bobsled, luge, or skeleton runs—an exciting, but very stressful occasion. A trip down an icy course set everyone’s heart racing, but the soldiers who said they belonged to many groups returned to their normal heart rate faster than soldiers who did not.

And people with many memberships recovered from the stress more quickly.

To find out if making people aware of their group memberships would improve their resilience, Jones and Jetten randomly assigned 56 college students to think about one, three, or five groups that they were members of, and to take care to describe why the group was important to them. Then all participants began a very challenging physical task—keeping one hand in a bucket of near-freezing water.

The more group memberships the participants had thought about, the longer they were able to keep their hand in the icy water. People who were told to think about five groups were able to keep their hand in twice as long as people who were told to think of only one group. Because people were randomly assigned the number of groups to think of, the difference in coping with pain was due to thinking about group memberships, and it is not merely due to mental toughness.

“Group memberships are an important resource,” the researchers said.

“The identity that we gain from our group memberships helps us to develop a sense of belonging, purpose, and meaning. This gives us the psychological strength to endure and recover physical challenges.”

Encouraging people to think about their groups—and to join new ones—is a promising avenue to promote health and well-being with very few negative side effects.

The study is found in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Source: SAGE Publications

People Who Join Groups Better Off Physically, Mentally, Emotionally

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). People Who Join Groups Better Off Physically, Mentally, Emotionally. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 15, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/12/16/people-who-join-groups-better-off-physically-mentally-emotionally/21873.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.