More than any other time of year, the winter holidays are when we really come together. We gather with friends and family for parties, for worship, for gift giving, for feasts. Through our rituals and traditions, we strengthen the bonds that hold us together throughout the rest of the year.
Our social interactions matter – and not just mentally and emotionally, but physically, too. For instance, research in the prestigious journal Science suggests that a lack of social connection may raise the risk of early death and be even more harmful than obesity, smoking, or high blood pressure.
One reason why may be its effect on chronic inflammation – a condition which underlies a wide range of health problems, from gum disease to diabetes to cancer. (Indeed, some researchers have suggested that inflammation may be a common denominator in all disease.) One study from earlier this year found
(1) that exposure to social stressors increases proinflammatory activity, (2) that individuals who are more socially isolated (ie, lonely) show increased proinflammatory activity, and (3) that individuals who are more socially isolated show increased proinflammatory activity in response to an inflammatory challenge or social stressor.
Other research has consistently shown that social connection has real health benefits.
As the Harvard Women’s Health Watch [has] reported, “Dozens of studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer.”
In a study of 7,000 men and women in Alameda County, Calif., begun in 1965, Lisa F. Berkman and S. Leonard Syme found that “people who were disconnected from others were roughly three times more likely to die during the nine-year study than people with strong social ties,” John Robbins recounted in his marvelous book on health and longevity, “Healthy at 100.”
This major difference in survival occurred regardless of people’s age, gender, health practices or physical health status. In fact, the researchers found that “those with close social ties and unhealthful lifestyles (such as smoking, obesity and lack of exercise) actually lived longer than those with poor social ties but more healthful living habits,” Mr. Robbins wrote. However, he quickly added, “Needless to say, people with both healthful lifestyles and close social ties lived the longest of all.”
Yet these days, social isolation seems to be on the rise, despite our greater connectivity through technology and social media. More than ever, it’s important that we reach out to others we know, inviting them into our activities as family, to celebrate the holiday spirit of love, sharing, and gratitude. Our human connections are important. We need each other.
And what does this all have to do with dentistry? This is a dental blog, after all.
Simply this: Just as your oral health affects your overall health, so your overall health affects that of your mouth. And when we’re talking “health,” we’re not just talking about physical well-being, but mental, emotional, and spiritual, as well.
All works together in the one complex and dynamic whole that you are.
From Dr. Wall, Dr. Baker, and all of us here at Dental Solutions, we wish you the very best of holiday seasons and a happy, healthy start to the new year!
Originally posted 2017-12-14 07:09:46.