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4 Ways Social Support Can Help You Heal – Mentally and Physically

Updated: Feb 27

Even if you're a certified introvert, chances are that you've cultivated at least a small circle of friends and family you can count on at times. But did you know that social support is good for your health? Several studies have shown that social support has been linked to better health outcomes. It turns out, there are many ways that having supportive friends and family can help us heal both mentally and physically. In this article, we'll talk about four specific ways social support can improve our well-being.

friends eating

1. Social support can decrease stress

Social support can help you cope with a stressful event, manage your stress, and lower your levels of stress. The process of recovery from a difficult situation is often easier when you have someone to lean on. If you've just experienced or witnessed a traumatic event and feel overwhelmed by emotion, having someone to talk to can provide the comfort needed for healing. The same goes for situations that cause us daily anxiety or tension—social support can give us the relief we need so we don't feel like our emotions are getting out of control.

Research shows that social support lowers our levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and increases oxytocin (the bonding hormone), reducing stress-related symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, digestive problems, weight gain/loss issues, etc. In fact, studies show that social connection may even reduce mortality rates among those with heart disease!

2. Social support can help us recover from medical procedures

Social support can also help us recover from medical procedures. Studies show that people who had heart surgery were able to recover quickly and be less likely to expire or be re-hospitalized within the year after their surgery if they had a good social support system. The same goes for breast cancer patients, women who have high levels of social support have better outcomes with their treatment than those who don’t. Having a strong network of family and friends is associated with a stronger immune system and faster recovery, which helps your body fight off illness and disease.

Social support is nonprofessional resources available in the form of personal relationships and social support groups.

3. Social support can lower our mortality risk

Social support can lower your mortality risk by up to 50%. In a study published by the British Medical Journal, researchers found that social support can reduce mortality risk in people with heart disease and depression. It can also decrease mortality risk for those who have been diagnosed with cancer or HIV. Additionally, social connection is associated with reduced mortality risk in smokers who are trying to quit smoking.

4. Social support can help with smoking cessation