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Community, isolation and immune health

Posted Feb 02 2011 12:47pm

I’m hanging out in the kitchen, doing my work while my wife prepares the tax files. We’re stuck at home because snow and blizzard conditions outside have stranded us here. I know I’m not alone, though, as 2/3 of the country got walloped yesterday and today.  I scooped snow yesterday, had to snow-blow a lot more this morning, and will need to shovel more…especially the street snow that the city plows push back in my driveway…later today.

Don’t play any violins for me. I’m very lucky. I have a great family, good circle of friends, great work colleagues and clients, and wonderful neighbors. And, according to research and medical opinion, my immune system health will be the better for it. A day or two of isolation will be no problem, because my normal, everyday life is part of many communities. People who belong to communities , whether work, neighborhoods, church or whatever, are much more likely to live healthier lives.

A recent medical opinion piece in the Huffington Post this week reaffirmed the health benefits of community.” Glenn Braunstein, M.D., chair of medicine at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, writes: ” In another well-known study on the influence of social connections to the workings of the immune system, hundreds of healthy volunteers were exposed to the common cold virus, then quarantined for several days. The participants with more social connections from different contexts – such as work, sports and spiritual activities – were less likely to get a cold than volunteers who were more socially isolated. Simply put, the immune systems of people with a variety of friends tended to work better, possibly due to lower levels of stress hormone release by the well-connected people.”

There are many other health factors impacted by social engagement. Next time you’re cooped up, remember, connecting and reconnecting with others is the best medicine.

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