In our day to day lives, during the times when we are deciding what to eat or whether to watch TV or take a walk, who is more likely to be around us, our family, friends, flat mates or a doctor? Even for individuals living with a chronic condition who will probably only spend a few hours a year with medical professionals compared to the thousands of waking hours with family and friends.
Recently researches discovered that women are more likely to survive breast cancer if they have a strong social network of friends and family, whereas those who are more isolated are twice as likely to die of the disease.
University of Pennsylvania have found that good health is more likely if people see fewer doctors and more of their family and friends especially if they get their support and help. They discovered that people are more likely to make healthier choices - like going for a walk over watching TV if they are around family and friends. In addition people are more likely to go to the gym if they have someone to go with.
Being part of a group e.g. family, friends, book club, tennis club, social group, religious/spiritual practice seems to aid our motivation to be healthier in terms of diet, exercise, smoking or drinking. This could be because being part of a group enhances your sense of meaning in life, which in turn leads you to better take care of yourself. Or it could be down to feeling a sense of responsibility towards other or even just wanting to fit in.
D A. Asch, and R Rosin, Engineering Social Incentives for Health, N Engl J Med 2016; 375:2511-2513
Kroenke, C. H., Michael, Y. L., Poole, E. M., Kwan, M. L., Nechuta, S., Leas, E., Caan, B. J., Pierce, J., Shu, X.-O., Zheng, Y. and Chen, W. Y. (2017), Postdiagnosis social networks and breast cancer mortality in the After Breast Cancer Pooling Project. Cancer, 123: 1228–1237. doi:10.1002/cncr.30440
Tarrant, M., Warmoth, K., Code, C., Dean, S., Goodwin, V. A., Stein, K., & Sugavanam, T. (2016). Creating psychological connections between intervention recipients: development and focus group evaluation of a group singing session for people with aphasia. BMJ Open, 6(2), e009652.