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Over the past three years, largely due to the COVID-19 lockdown, many studies have examined the health benefits of social relationships. The impact of interest is as much psychological as it is physiological, up to longevity. However, few of them have been made under controlled experimental conditions. A recent friendship study of over 900 volunteers found that a single conversation (in person) during the day with a friend can positively impact our daily lives. This friendly contact, stemming from the need to belong to a group, can significantly reduce stress levels at the end of the day and improve overall well-being. Thus, according to these results, face-to-face communication is more associated with these benefits – compared to communication at a distance, for example, through social networks.
Many researchers view “social health” as a barometer of overall health and individual well-being. From a psychological standpoint, social relationships do provide valuable support in dealing with anxiety and depression. This well-being would have the effect of reducing the incidence of various pathologies such as heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, social relationships may influence the risk of mortality. Perhaps as evidence, the incredible longevity of centenarians living in the Blue Zones (the five regions of the world where the largest number of centenarians live) is due in part to their strong social ties, as well as other lifestyle factors.
On the other hand, scientists believe that the health benefits have more to do with the quality of the relationship than the quantity. “There is a lot of good research showing that the amount of your interactions, as well as the quality of your interactions, is associated with being a happier person,” Jeffrey Hall, a friendship expert and professor of communication, said in a statement. at the University of Kansas (USA) and co-author of a new study.
Depending on its nature, each relationship responds to a need and brings a different social experience. A new study published in Sage Journals focuses on friendship. The latter are relatively little studied compared to other forms of social relationships such as married life or mother-child relationships. In their study, the researchers demonstrate the importance of friendship for everyday well-being through simple, quality conversations.
Quality over quantity
Scholars based here on the theory of communication as obligation (or “communicative connection belongs”). In particular, the latter understands any social interaction as an expenditure of energy. However, only a few of these interactions manifest themselves as actions aimed at efforts, that is, as actions aimed at satisfying a need. It would seem that a variety of ways of social contacts leads to the same goal.
“This study is [aussi] an attempt to define what good communication is in the context of a relationship,” says Hall. “The types of communication we chose to study are those that previous research has shown to make people feel more connected when talking,” he adds.
Based on this theory, seven aspects of friendly communication have been studied: reconciliation, informing, joking, showing attention, listening, appreciating someone and his opinion, sincere compliment. To experiment with these conditions, more than 900 students from five campuses were recruited for one day before, during, and after the COVID lockdown periods. Their personal reports in terms of stress, interpersonal relationships, anxiety, well-being, loneliness, and overall quality of their day were collected at the end of each day.
Compared to control groups, participants who had at least one conversation with a friend during the day scored higher on well-being. This result was the same for any topic of conversation, and attention turned out to be a much more important factor than the researchers thought. Because the new study noted both qualitative and quantitative aspects, the researchers were able to show that just one conversation with a friend a day is enough to improve well-being.
In addition, the researchers also showed that face-to-face communication was more rewarding than social media. And because the study seems to argue that quality trumps quantity, it “supports the idea that we use communication to satisfy our need for belonging and in doing so help us manage stress,” Hall concludes.