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Put the Joy Back in Staying Healthy

Posted: April 24, 2009

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We could all use a little help from our friends, but just having them may also help us stay healthier. A slew of studies has shown an association between social networks and good health. Cognitive decline, high blood pressure, the risk of dying after a heart attack — they've all been linked to social isolation and loneliness. Sorting out cause and effect is difficult. Ill-health itself can strain social ties, although it's also true that coworkers, friends, and relatives tend to rally around people who have strong social networks prior to getting ill. Teasing apart the objective (not having someone to take you to the doctor, for example) and subjective (being lonely) aspects of isolation is yet another conundrum. Regardless, tending to friendships, family, and community life is a good habit to cultivate for health and other reasons.