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Manilow Was Right: You Gotta Have Friends

September 14, 2009
The quality of your social life could have an even greater role on health and well-being than diet and exercise. Writing in the September 2009 issue of Scientific American Mind, researchers from the Universities of Exeter (UK), Queensland (Australia) and Kansas reviewed a number of studies, including many of their own, which identify a link between group membership and physical and mental health. The work highlights the importance of belonging to a range of social groups, of hanging onto social groups and of building new social groups in dealing with life changes such as having a stroke and being diagnosed with dementia. According to Professor Alex Haslam of the University of Exeter, "We are social animals who live and have evolved to live in social groups. Membership of groups, from football teams to book clubs and voluntary societies, gives us a sense of social identity. This is an indispensable part of who we are and what we need to be in order to lead rich and fulfilling lives. For this reason groups are central to mental functioning, health and well-being." For more about the studies included in their review, see the September 15 issue of the Newsletter.