Researchers went on a hunt to dig up the characteristics of the happiest 10% among us. Lo and behold, there was only one characteristic that distinguishes them from everyone else: the strength of their social relationships.
Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, ran an empirical study of well-being among 1600 Harvard undergraduates and found a correlation of 0.7 between social support and happiness. For those who didn’t listen during statistical sampling 102, that’s a pretty high correlation. (For some context, the correlation between smoking and cancer is 0.37)
Speaking of stats, here are some others that will convince you to drop everything and call Jon, because you haven’t spoken to him since Steph and Austin’s wedding in 2019.
- Lack of social support can add 30 points to an adult’s blood pressure.
- Emotional support during the first 6 months after a heart attack increases odds of survival by 3x.
- Social support has as much of an effect on life expectancy as smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, and regular physical activity. Eeeeep.
Psychologists Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener reviewed tons of research from the last few decades and concluded that “like food and air, we seem to need social relationships to thrive.”
It’s hardwired in our biology. Our bodies need it. Positive social connection leads to oxytocin which reduces anxiety and improves concentration and focus immediately. Social connection also improves our cardiovascular, neuroendocrine, and immune systems. So, does that mean I don’t have to waste my time on the treadmill anymore? No, well… kinda?
Social connection helps you turn adversity into an opportunity more easily. When experiencing stress, you’ll bounce back quicker and you’ll be better protected against its long-term negative effects.
A longitudinal study of men aged 50+ found that those with more stressful life experiences had a much higher rate of mortality over the next 7 years. But, interestingly, they also found that this was true for everyone except the men who had high levels of social support. It proves to be our defense from the threats of stress.