Flu Season Rx: Be More Sociable

FriendsDo people ever ask you, “How do you find the time?” Or maybe, “How did you meet so many people?” If this sounds even a little bit like you, I’m guessing you are healthier than most people. Why?

We used to think that belonging to too many groups, being too sociable, was bad for you. It complicates your life, creates too many demands, and causes stress. Right?

Well not quite. In fact, research explored in September’s Scientific American Mind points to just the opposite. Those who are more sociable, belong to more groups, or have a variety of networks they belong to, have a distinct advantage over those less connected, who rely on only a few networks of friends and supporters.

How much more?

  • More than 30% less likely to have a second stroke in a 2005 study of 655 patients [1] 
  • About two times less likely to catch the common cold despite exposure to more germs [2]
  • Half the risk of dying in the next year when changing from not belonging to any groups to joining just one [3] 

And it’s more than general health. First year university students followed for the first four months of college were not just healthier. Those belonging to more groups before starting also had lower levels of depression. Anyone want a college student who is less homesick and less likely to drop or fail out? [4]

So whether you’re about to begin a major life transition, are stressed out at work, or are just worried about this year’s flu: Get Out There! Join groups. Volunteer. Blog, tweet, and connect on Facebook. Just be a bit more sociable. You’ll be happier and healthier for it.

For more detail and sources, see Scientific American Mind September/October 2009 article, Social Cures, by Jolanda Jetten, Catherine Haslam, S. Alexander Haslam and Nyla R. Branscombe.

1 Bernadette Boden-Albala, Columbia University, 2005

2 Sheldon Cohen & colleagues, Carnegie Mellon university, 2003, Psychological Science

3 Robert Putnam, Harvard University, Bowling Alone, 2000

4 Jolanda Jetten & S. A. Haslam, University of Queensland & University of Exeter, British Journal of Social Psychology