75k [virtual] hugs on PatientsLikeMe – and how social connections are good for your health

Newsflash: “Social Interaction Is Critical for Mental and Physical Health,” as The New York Times recently reported. Decades of research support the theory that social connections can have a positive effect on your health. Having social ties may help prevent illness and is still a boon to your health when you’re sick or living with a health condition. Check out some of the research and see how members are supporting each other socially on PatientsLikeMe. What’s the science behind social connections? As the Times reports, a 2001 study found that people with coronary artery disease who’ve had a heart attack have a lower risk of another cardiac arrest if they’re more socially connected. Other studies have shown that social interactions and support may help with everything from wound healing and physical pain to mood and psychological symptoms. Researchers who’ve studied the benefits of social interactions for women with breast cancer have found that receiving social-emotional support may reduce stress and affect the body’s “HPA” axis (or hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis – that’s a mouthful). Basically, the HPA axis uses glands, hormones and nerves to help regulate several processes in the body: stress response, immune and digestive systems, mood and emotions, sexuality and …

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