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Get social to get healthy

On 07/11/13 by Sophie McIntyre

Unlike women, who often don’t need much of an excuse for a chat, new research suggests that men are having a bit of trouble keeping up with their close friends. There has of course been a general increase in interaction via social media and online which has in part led some men towards more solitary behaviour. This inclination to stay put at home and spend more time on Facebook and Twitter could, however, be bad for their health. Getting off the sofa and away from the PS3/Twittersphere, calling up a mate and heading to the pub for a catch up could help you live longer.

This may all sound a bit far fetched… However, a report has been commissioned by Guinness, authored by leading psychologist at Oxford University Professor Robin Dunbar. The report has found that men should be meeting up with their close friends face to face at least twice a week and that a reliance on social media interaction should be avoided as this doesn’t confer the same benefits.

Specifically, Dunbar claims that 60% of your social life is split between just 15 friends or family and that most men will have four male friends that they spend time with most frequently. The success of these close friendships is clearly important. However, I’m sure many do not realise that the strengths of these can, allegedly, impact not just your mental health but also how prone you are to illness and your speed of recovery when you do get struck down.

An article was recently published in Shortlist magazine, which involved details of a social experiment conducted by Dr Dunbar. Columnist Danny Wallace was involved with the experiment, during which a group of friends played a game of football together outside and then played each other at football virtually. The first experience left them feeling much happier than the second.

Despite the benefits of socialising frequently, the Guinness research has suggested that only 42 per cent of men manage to meet up with their friends once a week and 30 per cent struggle to manage that. It seems clear that socialising, whether that be sporting activities, going down the pub or something else can have a positive effect on mental and physical health.

What a great excuse for a pint!


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