Category Archives: Psychology

Having Friends Leads to Longer Life

(My comments)

Whether they realize it or not, one reason people seek health care from Chinese Medicine is that we treat the patient, not the illness.

Everything about you is important to us – not just because we care about you; your Western MD surely cares about you too. However, the Western medical model does not integrate the state of your interpersonal relationships with your knee pain.

A highly skilled PA with a wide spectrum of serious medical experience recently said to me,

“You [Chinese Medicine practitioners] ask your patients what the color of their urine is? We don’t ask them the color of their urine. If it’s really yellow, they’ll tell us.”

First of all, statistically, the patient often does not know that there is something abnormal going on. If they have had dark scanty urine for years, they assume it’s normal.

Secondly, if the Western health care providers don’t ask about something as basic as your urine and bowel movements, what other key pieces to the puzzle are they ignoring? Don’t you think your primary health care provider should know if you have no friends?  If having no friends is damaging to one’s health and well being (as we know), than one’s nurse/doctor/PA should certainly know that you have no friends!

Of course, some of this is not the Western model’s fault, but rather the health care system‘s fault since the system itself does not promote preventive medicine.  This has led–not to a shortage of health care providers (as the headlines say) but rather–a superabundance of sick people. Yet the current health care system is based on the Western medical model – which has not, until recently, focused on preventive medicine.

Chinese Medicine, on the other hand, takes things such as your friendships into account in diagnosing ailments as physically tangible as Gall Stones.  Additionally, our source texts says that treating a disease once it erupts is like digging a well once you are thirsty.

Thankfully, Western medicine brings us powerful tools that can, when necessary, drill a well over night, so to speak. However, everyone agrees that preventing disease remains optimal. In this, I believe Chinese Medicine far surpasses contemporary Western medicine.

It is no surprise, therefore, to see the lovely research proving the very important health benefits of friendship, collected by the journalist below.

Be well,



Published: April 20, 2009

In the quest for better health, many people turn to doctors, self-help books or herbal supplements. But they overlook a powerful weapon that could help them fight illness and depression, speed recovery, slow aging and prolong life: their friends.

Researchers are only now starting to pay attention to the importance of friendship and social networks in overall health. A 10-year Australian study found that older people with a large circle of friends were 22 percent less likely to die during the study period than those with fewer friends. A large 2007 study showed an increase of nearly 60 percent in the risk for obesity among people whose friends gained weight. And last year, Harvard researchers reported that strong social ties could promote brain health as we age.

“In general, the role of friendship in our lives isn’t terribly well appreciated,” said Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. “There is just scads of stuff on families and marriage, but very little on friendship. It baffles me. Friendship has a bigger impact on our psychological well-being than family relationships.”

In a new book, “The Girls From Ames: A Story of Women and a 40-Year Friendship” (Gotham), Jeffrey Zaslow tells the story of 11 childhood friends who scattered from Iowa to eight different states. Despite the distance, their friendships endured through college and marriage, divorce and other crises, including the death of one of the women in her 20s.

Using scrapbooks, photo albums and the women’s own memories, Mr. Zaslow chronicles how their close friendships have shaped their lives and continue to sustain them. The role of friendship in their health and well-being is evident in almost every chapter.

Two of the friends have recently learned they have breast cancer. Kelly Zwagerman, now a high school teacher who lives in Northfield, Minn., said that when she got her diagnosis in September 2007, her doctor told her to surround herself with loved ones. Instead, she reached out to her childhood friends, even though they lived far away.

“The first people I told were the women from Ames,” she said in an interview. “I e-mailed them. I immediately had e-mails and phone calls and messages of support. It was instant that the love poured in from all of them.”

When she complained that her treatment led to painful sores in her throat, an Ames girl sent a smoothie maker and recipes. Another, who had lost a daughter to leukemia, sent Ms. Zwagerman a hand-knitted hat, knowing her head would be cold without hair; still another sent pajamas made of special fabric to help cope with night sweats.

Ms. Zwagerman said she was often more comfortable discussing her illness with her girlfriends than with her doctor. “We go so far back that these women will talk about anything,” she said.

Ms. Zwagerman says her friends from Ames have been an essential factor in her treatment and recovery, and research bears her out. In 2006, a study of nearly 3,000 nurses with breast cancer found that women without close friends were four times as likely to die from the disease as women with 10 or more friends. And notably, proximity and the amount of contact with a friend wasn’t associated with survival. Just having friends was protective.

Bella DePaulo, a visiting psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, whose work focuses on single people and friendships, notes that in many studies, friendship has an even greater effect on health than a spouse or family member. In the study of nurses with breast cancer, having a spouse wasn’t associated with survival.

While many friendship studies focus on the intense relationships of women, some research shows that men can benefit, too. In a six-year study of 736 middle-age Swedish men, attachment to a single person didn’t appear to affect the risk of heart attack and fatal coronary heart disease, but having friendships did. Only smoking was as important a risk factor as lack of social support.

Exactly why friendship has such a big effect isn’t entirely clear. While friends can run errands and pick up medicine for a sick person, the benefits go well beyond physical assistance; indeed, proximity does not seem to be a factor.



Lonely Hearts Find Comfort in TV Characters

Yahoo! News
Lonely Hearts Find Comfort in TV Characters
Jeremy Hsu – Staff Writer

Don’t feel delusional for turning to favorite television characters on “Lost” or “Brothers and Sisters” for comfort – new research suggests that such illusory relationships can buffer people against loneliness or sadness.

Subjects in one study who felt down from remembering unhappy moments of social rejection soon perked up upon writing about their favorite TV shows and characters. This supports the “social surrogacy hypothesis,” where technology provides a sense of social belonging when real social connections are lacking.

“Normally rejection has a horrible effect on us, because we’re a very social species,” said Shira Gabriel, a psychologist at the University of Buffalo in New York who conducted four studies on the issue. “But with our favorite TV shows, we’re no longer sad.”

Several studies

Much of the early research in this realm was based on the self-reports of college students. But taken together, four new studies indicate that even relationships with nonexistent fictional characters can affect people in very real ways.

The results may illustrate how certain television shows can hold the fascination of viewers, which has caused some psychologists and parents to worry about the social consequences. Even science fiction author Ray Bradbury said that his classic story about book burning, “Fahrenheit 451,” was more about the unhealthy attachment to mindless television than about censorship.

Indeed, “Fahrenheit” character Mildred prefers spending time with her television “family” rather than with her husband. “Poor family, poor family, oh everything gone,” Mildred mourns as she flees their burning home at one point in the story.

Plenty of anecdotal evidence exists in the real world for a powerful human attachment to fictional characters on TV, in books and in video games. The rabid fandom for certain stories, ranging from Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” to the comics and movies of “Batman,” may also speak for itself.

“If you’re having a lonely time or feeling down one evening, you can pick up Harry Potter and feel like you’re connecting to Harry or Hermione or Ron,” Gabriel told LiveScience. She compared it to using a diet pill to stop from feeling hungry, or in this case filling that sense of social emptiness.

Students in one study by Gabriel reported tuning in to favorite TV programs to stave off feelings of loneliness. And students who wrote 10-minute essays about favorite television programs verbally expressed fewer feelings of loneliness, compared to those who wrote essays about non-favorite programs or academic achievement.

Researchers also manipulated the social feelings of students in three of the four studies, and used common self-report assessment scales to gauge the emotional states. Students who spent time thinking about favorite TV programs seemed protected against drops in self-esteem and increases in negative mood.

This fits with previous research that has found some association between unhappiness and more television-watching, although whether that’s a good or bad thing remains to be decided.

Next steps

Gabriel and her colleagues have already begun conducting further research on how this social fulfillment from stories affects real-world emotions. Their work will hopefully provide more clues to researchers already trying to make the connection between real-world social networks and the more illusory connections with fictional worlds.

Sometimes even enthusiastic TV viewers can’t believe how attached they are to their favorite stories, Gabriel said.

“They think it’s almost illogical – you watch a show or get a book and you think, ‘Stupid, these people don’t even exist,'” Gabriel said. “But that’s the beautiful thing about human empathy.”

The full research is detailed in the May issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

* Top 10 Mysteries of the Mind
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* Original Story: Lonely Hearts Find Comfort in TV Characters chronicles the daily advances and innovations made in science and technology. We take on the misconceptions that often pop up around scientific discoveries and deliver short, provocative explanations with a certain wit and style. Check out our science videos, Trivia & Quizzes and Top 10s. Join our community to debate hot-button issues like stem cells, climate change and evolution. You can also sign up for free newsletters, register for RSS feeds and get cool gadgets at the LiveScience Store.

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