Best Doctors: How Human Connection Affects Brain Health
“Patients with positive social relationships feel less lonely, more connected and supported when stress happens,” says Dr. Jeanne Lackamp, director of psychiatry and medicine at University Hospitals. Starting as a child and lasting through our golden years, every life stage benefits from a healthy dose of face-to-face interaction that can have a positive effect on your brain.
Child: Our early years count the most. A child should have a good balance of interaction both at home and in the schoolyard. “If a kid that doesn’t get that social interaction, isn’t hearing those words on a regular basis, their cognitive development, their language and social development lags behind in a significant way,” says Dr. Steven Jewell, director of pediatric psychiatry and psychology at Akron Children’s Hospital.
Teen: A teen’s brain development results in a lot of ups and downs as they’re venturing into new social situations. Jewell points out that the brain goes through a significant development as a teen learns to balance multiple social spheres and expectations in their lives. “When they realize they can actually agree with their parents, but it’s their decision, that’s when you got true social development going on,” he says.
20s-30s: Many major life events typically happen during this time period: graduating from college, starting your first full-time job, getting married, buying a house and having kids. It all adds up to a time when social circles change. “Any transition times are opportunities for people to make new social connections and kind of re-create themselves and have a new identity,” says Lackamp.
40s-50s: People will start to feel empty nest syndrome as their children move out for good. Stress can also come from expanded roles and more opportunities at work. There are ways to feel more connected. “There are structured locations, whether it be a faith community, a library system, a community organization or getting involved in city council,” says Lackamp.
Over 60: Retirement sounds relaxing, but changes in routine, lack of daily mental simulation and reduced social interactions can have a negative impact. “In some cases we’ve seen cognitive decline or a mood change in someone who retires,” says Lackamp. Lean on the strong social circle you’ve created throughout your life to keep a full calendar. “People who have the most opportunities for social interaction in their community of family and friends actually have a slower rate of memory decline and cognitive impairment.”
Click here to read the more articles from Best Doctors: Special Brain Health Report cover package.
Click here to read about three strategies you can use to stay social for brain health.
Click here to read about how making infomercials helped one class of students collaborate and stay social.
8:00 AM EST
July 29, 2019