Strong interpersonal relationships and a strong support system indicate good social health. Good social health contributes to better mental and physical health. Research also shows that ongoing loneliness and chronic stress caused by poor social health are linked to many physical health problems. For example, gender, race, and age are related to different levels and types of responsibilities, tensions, and resources in social ties, which, in turn, influence personal health habits and the health of important people.
Social ties can instill a sense of responsibility and concern for others, leading people to adopt behaviors that protect the health of others, as well as their own. In addition, interventions and policies that strengthen and support people's social ties have the potential to improve the health of others related to those people. Academics should consider this cascading process and identify populations at risk, as well as the most important modifiable risk and protective factors in their social relationships. However, population-level data have a limited capacity to reveal rich social contexts that allow us to analyze the meanings, dynamics, and processes that link social links to health over time.
As adults age, physical activity can also provide opportunities for social interaction and reduce feelings of loneliness or exclusion. However, in some cases, these policies and programs do not benefit the populations that need them most or they unintentionally undermine the health of the target population and others in their social network. Both the quantity and quality of social relationships affect mental health, healthy behavior, physical health, and mortality risk. Social networks refer to the network of social relationships that surround an individual, in particular to structural features, such as the type and strength of each social relationship.
Imagine a Greek temple with three columns, where the temple represents general health and the columns represent the physical, mental, and social components of health. While social relationships are the central source of emotional support for most people, social relationships can be extremely stressful (Walen and Lachman 2000). If social ties promote psychological well-being and improve health habits over a lifetime, then social ties can add cumulative health benefits over time, a worthwhile goal for an aging population. These findings suggest that the impact of social ties on a person's health goes beyond that person and influences the health of broader social networks.
Social ties can improve personal control (perhaps through social support) and, in turn, personal control is beneficial for health habits, mental health, and physical health (Mirowsky and Ross 2003; Thoits 200.