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Groups are key to good health
Date:9/10/2009

The quality of a person's social life could have an even greater impact than diet and exercise on their health and well-being. There is growing evidence that being a member of a social group can significantly reduce the risk of conditions like stroke, dementia and even the common cold.

New research by the Universities of Exeter and Queensland, Australia, shows that membership of social groups has a positive impact on health and well-being. 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.

Writing in Scientific American Mind, the researchers from the Universities of Exeter, Queensland and Kansas review a number of previous studies, including many of their own, which identify a link between group membership and physical and mental health. Some more recent studies which support the same conclusion are presented by the Exeter-based researchers at the British Science Festival today (Thursday 10 August).

Commenting on this work, Professor Alex Haslam of the University of Exeter, said: "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".

These conclusions are based a number of recent studies which were reviewed in the article and presented at the Science Festival. These included:

  • A 2008 study (published in Neuropsychological Rehabilitation) of stroke sufferers. This showed that being able to maintain valued group memberships played as important a role in positive recovery as an ability to overcome
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Contact: Sarah Hoyle
s.hoyle@exeter.ac.uk
44-139-226-2062
University of Exeter
Source:Eurekalert

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