Friendships Key to Good Health

Researchers at University of Virginia have for the first time revealed brain imaging evidence that supports the long hypothesized idea that people with strong social relationships report better general health than those who do not.

Psychology professor James Coan leads UVA’s Affective Neuroscience Laboratory where researchers focused on the hypothalamus, which regulates stress hormones.

“This is the first time this hypothalamus-health link has ever been reported using data from the functioning brain. The reason this is really important is that people have hypothesized for decades that we should find this, but no one has ever found this until now.”

When the social support system inhibits the hypothalamus’ response to stress, the body releases fewer potentially destructive stress hormones and have a stronger immune system.

The study, which is part of a longitudinal inquiry into how relationships affect human health, involved 75 people from the Charlottesville community, reports

The researchers collected data over the course of four years. The study results are being published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

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