Socialising and Cancer Survival

After years of scientific studies and research, it has become evident that having a well-rounded social life actually seems to prolong your life!

Does a poor social life cause illness?

Dr Lisa Berkman, of the Harvard School of Health Sciences, reported the results of a nine-year study of 7000 people aged 35 to 65. She observed that people who lacked social and community ties were almost 3 times more likely to die of medical illness than those with more extensive contacts. This was independent from socio-economic status and health practices, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity and physical activity.

These findings were reinforced by a study undertaken by the California Department of Health Services, Environmental Epidemiology Section, Emeryville. 6,848 adults were studied over a 17 year period, adjusting for age, smoking, physical health at baseline, alcohol consumption, and adjusted household income. The researchers discovered that “women who were socially isolated were at significantly elevated risk of dying of cancer of all sites and of smoking-related cancers. Social connections were not prospectively associated with cancer incidence or mortality among men, but men with few social connections showed significantly poorer cancer survival rates.”

The impact of social media on your social life

In a paper published in the journal Biologist, and subsequent article in the Daily Mail, psychologist Dr Aric Sigman highlighted that the reliance on social networking sites, such as Facebook, instead of face-to-face contact could be detrimental to health.

Dr Sigman mentioned that the number of hours of face-to-face social contact has dropped substantially since 1987, as online media gradually increased.

The issue is that we already have knowledge of 209 different genes in our DNA that are “socially regulated”, including genes that relate to immune response, stress responses and bonding.

For example, the bonding or “cuddle” hormone oxytocin raises and lowers, depending upon levels of close contact. Digital interaction does not influence it. If this one hormone can be moderated so dramatically by our social activity, what other genes can be switched on or off without our knowledge?

We know so little about how all of our DNA is expressed, that we could inadvertently be depriving ourselves, (or even doing harm), by physical isolation, even if we are digitally maxed out.

Dr Sigman explained that “In less than two decades, the number of people saying there is no one with whom they discuss important matters nearly tripled.”

“Parents spend less time with their children than they did only a decade ago. Britain has the lowest proportion of children in all of Europe who eat with their parents at the table. The proportion of people who work at home alone continues to rise.”

None of this research has quantified whether it was the reduction in social interaction, or whether it was the feeling of loneliness that correlated to the increased risk, so that is currently unclear.

What can you do to better your social life?

The message from this is to hold on to family time and to be sociable wherever you get the opportunity. Keep a slot open for family meal times, and encourage discussion. Better yet, have a family meal, and then go for a walk together.

Of course, there are never enough hours in the day, but even doing this once per week is better than never.

If you enjoyed this article, then why not take a look at Cancer Uncensored – Your Step By Step Guide to Cancer Prevention, Early Detection and Cancer Survival.

Cancer Uncensored
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