Think about it. What do you feel like after you’ve sat around with a group of friends and reminisced about days gone by, plowed over stories of college hi jinks, talked about former jobs and trips and games? Most likely you come away from those group free-for-alls feeling great and in high spirits. You probably go back home and tell folks, “Man, we had a blast sitting around swapping stories.”
Well British research has just been published and summarized today in the Daily Mail (London) showing that kind of group story sharing can actually increase brain function anywhere from 8 to 12 percent among those with age-related cognitive decline. Those results were not achieved when study participants simply talked one-on-one with somebody. According to one researcher: “I don’t think any drug would deliver anything close to that. If you had a drug that could do that, you could make a lot of money. The point is that the drug is the group.”
The opposite of this environment–isolation from friends, colleagues–can not only diminish cognitive function, it also can weaken immune response, negatively impact blood pressure and contribute to risk of depression.
Some relatively recent research at Carnegie Mellon drilled more deeply into the detrimental effects of social isolation on immune function. Research measured the immune response of students receiving flu shots. Freshman who charted their social networks of friends on campus as very small had lower immune response to flu vaccine strains compared to first-year students who diagrammed a larger social base. A separate UCLA study found similar results.
Bottom line: Don’t let Facebook or Twitter or online gaming be you network. You need people around you to realize greater longevity.