"health resolutions"By Dr. Julie T. Chen, M.D.

I sometimes hear from patients that they were told growing up to be strong and not rely on others. They were also told that they can’t count on anyone but themselves by their parents. Comments like this make me sad and weary for the health of these patients. The reason is because we see time and time again that how we perceive our environment in regards to how much support we think we have, has a huge impact on our overall health.

There are many studies in medical literature that suggest social support in the form of how much of it we think we have significantly plays into not just our mental wellbeing, but also in our health. Patients who think they have great social support tend to have less bodily complaints and health issues. They also are able to bounce back from stressors more easily. For those people who have low self-esteem or social support, they tend to have more health and mood issues from stressors, even when they are not regularly exposed to stressors.

The reason I am writing about this topic is because it concerns me that all too often, physicians and patients alike are not putting enough significance to the idea of sufficient social support. And the question that arises from this is, why not when there is overwhelming evidence that those with more abundant social support fare better in the long run.

So, I urge you to be proactive in creating a strong social support network for yourself. Even pets have been seen to increase health and overall wellbeing in studies. Even if your physician and healthcare practitioner is not giving you referrals to support groups, churches or synagogues or temples, tai chi groups, qi gong groups, meditation groups, or social outdoor activity groups, you should take it upon yourself to seek these out. There is definitely not a lack of evidence that by doing so, you are doing your body and your mind a great justice.

To all my patients who believe they cannot rely on anyone else and that the only people you can count on is yourself, I challenge those comments you grew up with for the good of your long term health and wellbeing. It is true that we must all be strong. It is true that we must be self-sufficient and be able to take care of ourselves. But, as far as not being able to count on others? There are many studies demonstrating that we should indeed count on others…if not for our enjoyment and social escape, then definitely for the greater good of our health and longevity.