social networks


Want Happiness At 50? Be A Social Butterfly At 20, Keep Friends Close At 30

(Seranya Photography/Flickr)

(Seranya Photography/Flickr)

By Marina Renton
CommonHealth Intern

What’s the key to happiness in middle age? Be a social butterfly when you’re 20 and keep your friends close at 30. That’s according to a new study looking at the health impacts of social networks over decades.

Researchers at the University of Rochester found that because our social goals change over time, a high quantity of social interactions at age 20 and a high quality of interactions at age 30 was associated with better social and psychological outcomes around age 50. The study appears in the journal Psychology and Aging.

A Pleasant Interaction? 

The study was 30 years in the making and began in the ’70s when college students were asked to keep a kind of diary where they logged all their social interactions over a two-week period. They recorded the length of their interactions, the level of intimacy and pleasantness, among other things. The diary method, officially called the Rochester Interaction Record, was designed to capture spontaneous social activity (think pre-Twitter). It was also an attempt to minimize “recall bias.”

Study co-author Cheryl Carmichael, an assistant professor of psychology at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, explained why the “diaries” were important: “If I asked somebody, ‘Hey, how’s your social life going these days?’ it could very easily be colored by whatever their morning or afternoon was like,” she said. For instance, your social life might seem bleak if you’ve just argued with your best friend, but if you’ve have it all written down, you can get a more accurate sense of a person’s true social life. Continue reading

Moving To A Nicer Neighborhood Can Boost Your Health

Better neighborhoods for better health

Here’s an enticing new study about how simply moving to a better neighborhood can improve your health, concisely explained by our colleagues at DCentric:

It’s well documented that poverty and bad health have a strong connection. A team of researchers wondered if simply moving from a low-income to middle class neighborhood could make a person healthier.

Turns out that it does, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine does. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development researchers studied three groups. One group stayed in poor neighborhoods. Another group received rent subsidies to move into middle class neighborhoods. The third group received the same subsidies to help with rent, but remained in poor neighborhoods. The results: the group who moved to the middle class neighborhood were 5 percent less likely to be obese and show signs of diabetes. Continue reading

Social Networks For Diabetics: A Mixed Bag, Children’s Study Finds

A new look at social networks for diabetics finds an interesting mix of powerful pros and cautionary cons. Among the pros are helpful advice and much-needed support. Among the cons, the Children’s blog “Vector” reports here:

Only five of the 10 sites had content in line with diabetes science and clinical practice standards. Some didn’t trouble to communicate the definition of A1c, a biomarker widely used by diabetics to assess blood glucose levels. Others lacked clear, centralized information on having routine checkups, eye exams and lipid profiling, or on smoking cessation—all generally recommended for diabetics. Only three of the 10 sites included a disclaimer encouraging patients to discuss their care regimen with a health care provider.

Seven of the 10 sites didn’t allow members to restrict the visibility of their profiles. Five carried advertisements that weren’t labeled as such. And three went as far as to advertise unfounded “cures.”

Some suggestions for improvement, Vector reports:

Beyond adding basic guidelines for care, defining medical terms and distinguishing ads from other content, researchers Elissa Weitzman and Ken Mandl recommend more moderation—with credentials of moderators clearly posted—and periodic external review. Privacy policies should be easier to understand, and potential conflicts of interest, such as ties to the pharmaceutical industry, openly noted.

And for now, Children’s offers this handy guide for the growing number of patients who join with others online: Continue reading