Adapted from Human Givens Volume 27 No2 2020
Frequent social contact has been associated with better health and longer life but is there an optimal contact frequency?
The European Social Survey results suggested that monthly or weekly was enough to see benefits among 350 thousand people over 35 countries.
A second German study found that more contact than this was not associated with better health and in some cases was related to worse health and greater mortality risks. My comment: Of course, friends and relatives may have been visiting more frequently BECAUSE their friend was indisposed.
Psychological and Personality Science 2020
Researchers from Ontario, Quebec and Oxford found that having strong interpersonal relationships was critical for survival across the entire lifespan. Social isolation is a significant predictor of the risk of death. Insufficient social stimulation affects reasoning and memory, hormone balance, brain structure, connectivity and function, and resilience to physical and mental disease.
Feelings of loneliness can cause negatively skewed social perception and in older people it can precipitate dementia.
Professor Dunbar from Oxford said, ” Loneliness has accelerated in the past decade. Given the potentially severe consequences, exacerbated by national policy responses to Covid-19, we have launched the Campaign to End Loneliness. This is a network of over 600 national, regional and local organisations that want to create the right conditions to reduce loneliness in later life.
Bzdok D and Dunbar RIM (2020) The neurobiology of social distance. Trends in Cognitive Sciences.
If you are at the other end of the age spectrum, particularly an only child, a pet can be a great advantage to you.
The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children found that children who had pets had lower emotional symptoms, fewer problems relating to other children and had more positive social behaviour compared to the non pet owning children. The positive social behaviour effect was magnified in only children.
Christian H et al. Pets are associated with fewer peer problems and emotional symptoms and better prosocial behaviour. Findings from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. J Pediatr 2020;200:200-206.