In a new study from The Ohio State University, researchers found when it comes to your health, being willing to give social support to your spouse, friends and family may be just as important as receiving assistance.
They found that on one important measure of health – chronic inflammation – indicators of positive social relationships were linked to lower inflammation only among people who said they were available to provide social support to family and friends.
In other words, having friends to lean on may not help your health unless you also say that you’re available to help them when they need it.
The study used data from 1,054 participants in the National Survey of Midlife Development in the U.S. These were all healthy adults between 34 and 84 years old.
Participants completed a questionnaire that measured their “social integration,” asking if they were married or living with a partner, how often they contacted family and friends, and how often they attended social groups or activities.
Participants also completed a measure of how much they believed they could rely on their family, friends or spouse if they needed help.
About two years later, these participants returned for blood tests, which included a test for interleukin-6 (IL-6), which is a marker of systemic inflammation in the body.
Higher levels of IL-6 are associated with increased risk for many of the diseases that are the top killers of Americans, including heart disease and cancer.
The team found the importance of being available to help others held true even after taking into account a broad range of other factors that may affect inflammation.
The connection between offering social support and health may be mostly found in women.
The team says it is important to note that this study only looked at what people said they were willing to do, and not their actions.
This work underscores the importance of incorporating the concept of giving support into future research in this area.
If you care about inflammation, please read studies about the cause of severe inflammation in COVID-19, and findings of drugs for inflammation, diabetes that may help treat cancer.
For more information about wellness, please see recent studies about the hormone that may reduce irregular heartbeat, inflammation, and results showing that inflammation may slow cognitive decline in older people.
The study is published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity. One author of the study is Tao Jiang.
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