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Does Social and Emotional Support Impact Health?

Written By Claire C

As we kick off another challenge this Sunday, we thought it would be interesting to discuss how moral support can help you achieve your goals.  Although this article specifically discusses the implications of social and emotional support for health outcomes, the research can be applied to how our group challenge and support calls can help you to succeed in achieving your health goals!

Background Information on Social Support and Health:

  • This is a review article that summarizes findings related to the correlations found between levels of social support and health outcomes
  • Most of this research has focused on a decreased risk of mortality associated with higher quality or quantity of social relationships
    • This remains true even after controlling for baseline health levels
  • Social isolation has also been identified as a risk factor for all-cause mortality
  • New research has focused on:
    • The effect of social support on morbidity, mortality, and quality of life among those with chronic diseases
    • The mechanisms of this effect
    • How these findings can be applied to intervention strategies

Social Support, Morbidity, and Mortality:

  • It’s important to understand that morbidity describes the condition of suffering from a disease whereas mortality describes the state of dying (from a disease or any other cause)
  • Quality and quantity of social relationships have previously been linked to mortality from diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, and emphysema 
    • Also linked to self-reported disease outcomes
  • Newer research has also found that providing support to others is important for health and well-being
    • Specifically noted that feeling that you are “socially useful” can predict lower mortality rates among the elderly

Potential Pathways for Social Support’s Impact:

  • May be related to social support’s effect on inflammatory processes
  • So far research has had inconsistent findings, so more research needs to be done 
  • Another potential pathway is related to social support’s influence on health behaviors
    • Having higher quality and quantity of social relationships may encourage people to engage in healthy behaviors 

Social Support and Health Interventions:

  • The importance of support groups in filling gaps in social support among patients
  • Teaching supportive behaviors
  • Learning to capitalize on existing support systems

Other Fasting Flamingo Resources You Might Enjoy:

  • Eat, Fast, Feast
    • Heal Your Body While Feeding Your Soul – A Christian Guide to Fasting
  • Why fasting bolsters brain power
    • In this TED Talk, Mark Mattson, who currently serves as the Chief of Laboratory Neuroscience at the National Institute of Aging, discusses how intermittent fasting is good for your brain.  He discusses both anecdotal and evolutionary evidence that fasting improves mental efficiency.
  • Do People Regret Their Unhealthy Behaviors?
    • This article by Louise Lee discusses some of the psychology behind guilt related to unhealthy behaviors. It specifically analyzes current research regarding the role of regret in dietary choices. 
  • Eat, Fast, Live Longer
    • In this BBC documentary, journalist Michael Mosley searches for the key to increasing his lifespan through his diet.  After failing to reach his goals using traditional methods of staying healthy, he analyzes various diets meant to improve longevity before he discovers the powers of intermittent fasting.

And remember, if you ever feel that you need more support in your fasting journey, The Fasting Flamingo is here to help!

Researcher Summary:

Recent findings often show a robust relationship in which social and emotional support from others can be protective for health. However, the next generation of studies must explain why this relationship exists and the specificity of such links. This research is in its infancy but will be crucial in order to better tailor support interventions that can impact on physical health outcomes.

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