A recent research reveals that giving social support to your spouse, friends, and family is equally as crucial as getting it when it comes to your health.
While experts have long believed that obtaining social support from others is beneficial to one’s health, research has shown varied findings. As a result, researchers from The Ohio State University decided to investigate if providing assistance might have a positive impact on one’s health.
They discovered that markers of healthy social ties were related with decreased inflammation only among persons who indicated they were accessible to give social support to family and friends on one critical measure of health, chronic inflammation.
To put it another way, having friends to depend on may not be beneficial to your health unless you also make it clear that you’re willing to assist them when they need it.
“Only those who think they can offer greater support in such interactions may be related with reduced inflammation,” said Tao Jiang, main author of the research and a doctorate student in psychology at Ohio State.
The study’s preliminary findings revealed that the relationship between health and desire to assist others is particularly crucial for women.
Jennifer Crocker, professor; Baldwin Way, associate professor; and Syamil Yakin, research assistant, all of Ohio State’s psychology departments, collaborated on the study. Their research was published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity this month.
The findings suggest that the healing potential of excellent relationships stems from reciprocal support, according to Way.
“It’s possible that when individuals think they can help their friends and family more, these interactions are more gratifying and stress-relieving, which decreases inflammation,” he added.
The research relied on information from 1,054 people who took part in the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States. They were all healthy people between the ages of 34 and 84.
Participants filled out a questionnaire on their “social integration,” which included questions about whether they were married or lived with a partner, how often they contacted family and friends, and how frequently they joined social groups or activities.
Participants were also asked to rate how much they think they could depend on their relatives, friends, or spouse for assistance in the event of an emergency.
The fact that this dataset is one of the few that additionally asked individuals to evaluate how much they were accessible to help family, friends, and spouse is the key to this study. Jiang expressed his thoughts.
These individuals returned two years later for blood testing, which included an interleukin-6 (IL-6) test, which is a measure of systemic inflammation in the body.
“Higher levels of IL-6 are linked to an increased risk of several of the leading causes of death in the United States, including cardiovascular disease and cancer,” Way said.
“That’s why we believed it was critical to figure out why earlier research had revealed such shaky evidence for a relationship between social support and reduced inflammation.”
Even after accounting for a wide variety of other characteristics that may influence inflammation, such as age, income, and education, as well as health habits, medication usage, and known medical illnesses, the results demonstrating the benefit of being accessible to assist others stayed true.
According to Jiang, an exploratory research suggests that the link between providing social support and health is largely evident in women.
“This reflects the assumption that women’s social interactions are valued more than men’s,” Jiang said. “However, our sample size was insufficient to demonstrate this decisively. That is something we need to look into more.”
It’s crucial to note, according to Way, that this research only looked at what respondents indicated they were willing to do, not what they really did.
However, according to Jiang, the research provides “a more nuanced picture” of the connection between health and relationships.
“This study emphasizes the need of include the notion of providing assistance in future research in this area,” he stated.