Having trusted social connections and frequent social interactions is causally protective for depression. Social isolation and loneliness, on the other hand, are linked to Low-grade Inflammation, one of the key Blood Test Contributors of Livit’s Mental Resilience result.
According to the World Health Organization, mental health is “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
The last part of this list is sometimes forgotten by us and far too often neglected by health professionals. However, there is a lot of varied evidence to suggest that contributing to one’s community as well as one’s circle of loved ones—whether it be by participating in communal gardening activities, by offering your friend a shoulder to cry on, or by showing gratitude to your mom—is essential to emotional resiliency.
Research shows that having trusted social connections and frequent social interactions is causally protective for depression, whereas social isolation and loneliness are associated with different markers of Low-grade Inflammation, one of the key Blood Test Contributors of Livit’s Mental Resilience result.
It is not by chance that many of the inhabitants of the Blue Zones—pockets of the world that are home to the most centenarians—report a strong sense of belonging and community. From the Okinawan tradition of forming a moai—a group of five friends that support each other throughout their lives—to the strong focus on putting family first in basically all Blue Zone regions, social health is ingrained in their daily lives.
Social participation can translate to many years of extra healthspan. For example, a cohort study of over 10,000 Japanese older adults found that participating in social activities such as volunteering, social hobbies, and neighborhood association meetings is associated with longer disease-free life expectancy.
According to the study, those participating on a regular basis in one social activity had around three additional years lived in good health (compared to those with no activity), while those participating in three social activities had around five additional healthy years. The magnitude of the effect is comparable to that of traditional risk factors, such as smoking, lack of physical activity, and obesity.
There’s no denying that our mental health (including our emotional, psychological, and social well-being) influences our physical health, but luckily there are many relatively easy ways to improve both at once. Our favorite, group exercise, has the double benefit of helping you remain both physically fit and mentally strong.