Common Cold…Social Ties Decrease Risk


PITTSBURGH-Several current theories hold that people who have diversified social networks (those that interact with family members, friends, and co-workers, are married, and belong to various social groups) live longer and healthier than people who live more isolated lives.

Recently, Sheldon Cohen, PhD and colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh performed a bold study which was recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (1997;277:1940-4).

Dr. Cohen's study involved infecting 276 healthy volunteers (aged 18 to 55 years) with a particular cold virus (rhinovirus)! The volunteers reported the extent of their social ties, and were given nasal drops containing one of 2 types of this virus and monitored for the development of a common cold.

The results demonstrated that those volunteers with more types of social ties were less susceptible to common colds, produced less mucus, and were more efficient in clearing the virus from their nasal passages.

The authors concluded that more diverse social networks were associated with greater resistance to infections in the upper breathing passages.

Humans are social beings. There have been many other documented health benefits of socialization behaviors, including optimizing thinking ability in seniors, musculoskeletal health, and others. This new research supports the contention that social ties are an attribute in promoting a healthier life.

(Maybe those Fourth of July barbeque gatherings, as are common in the United States, celebrate more than only our national heritage, but also serve our national health! Happy and safe Fourth of July!)

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