The Public Health Agency of Canada concludes that support from families, friends and communities is associated with better health. These social support networks are very important in helping people solve problems, deal with adversity, and maintain a sense of control over their lives and circumstances. The caring and respect that occurs in social relationships, and the resulting sense of well-being, acts as a buffer against health problems.
Some experts in the field have concluded that the health effect of social relationships may be as important as established risk factors such as smoking, physical activity, obesity and high blood pressure. An extensive study in California found that, for men and women, the more social contacts people have, the lower their premature death rates. Another U.S. study found that low availability of emotional support and low social participation were associated with all-cause mortality.1
The importance of social support also extends to the broader community. The strength of social networks within a community, region, province or country has varying levels of affect on health. The more institutions, organization, and groups created to share resources and information with others is synonymous with the level of good health in that community. In addition, the Public Health Agency of Canada states that social stability, recognition of diversity, safety, good working relationships, and cohesive communities provide a supportive society that reduces or avoids many potential risks to good health.
1. Public Health Agency of Canada. (2013). What Makes Canadians Healthy or Unhealthy? Retrieved from http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/ph-sp/determinants/determinants-eng.php