Effects of social relationships and communication on health
How digital communication can affect well-being
Communication is one of Humankind's central needs. The importance of communication with others has already been proven in many studies. For example, in one study by the Humboldt University in Berlin, it was possible to show a correlation between a fulfilled need for communication and one's own self-esteem (https://www.psychologie.hu-berlin.de/de/prof/perdev/pdf/2008/Denissen_Penke_Schmitt_van_Aken_2008_-_Sociometer .pdf).
However, in our postmodern world, our communicative behavior has radically changed. More and more People communicate via the Internet. What change does this bring with it for our health? Can the need for social interaction still be satisfied with this?
Communication and social relations are big factors for health
Farid Zitoun, Managing Director of Naturheilzentrum Bottrop (‘nabo’ for short), states that the topic of communication has a very important role to play when it comes to health: "People have a basic need to connect with other Human beings. One study even showed that the impact of social relationships on our life expectancy is the same as smoking or drinking alcohol."
According to Zitoun, maintaining social relationships is therefore an important factor for well-being: "We should take time to maintain contact with the People around us. Unfortunately, this often takes a back seat for many of us, given our ever-faster lifestyle." A report from the German Federal Office for Occupational Health and Safety also highlights the value of social interactions in the workplace. The result: relationships characterized by negativity and bullying can have a strong negative impact on mental health.
Digital communication changes communicative behavior
The fact that things like the Internet, smartphones, and social networks have an effect on communicative behavior probably seems obvious to most People in everyday life. Above all, the high prevalence of text messages is often cited as a possible factor in experiencing stunted communication. While many studies show that the exchange of information has changed dramatically, especially among young People, it is obviously far from the case that the modern forms of communication on offer completely replace the old ones. Rather, according to a study by the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences, it seems that they are a supplement to tried-and-tested options such as telephoning (https://www.wik.org/fileadmin/Studien/2016/OTT-Studie_DEU.pdf).
Another study by the University of Hohenheim even concludes that digital communication has a positive effect on contact between People in real life. At the same time, exchanges via social media have measurably positive effects on well-being.
The pitfalls of digital communication - negative effects?
However, the situation regarding studies on digital communication is not clear. For example, one American study - in contrast to other findings - suggests that the proportion of People who feel socially isolated is higher among adolescents who use social media more than those who use it less (https://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(17)30016-8/fulltext). Other studies may also prove that social interaction can have a positive effect on well-being, but only when it comes to meeting face-to-face.
Looking at the overall results, it seems clear that digital communication should not be vilified, but it also cannot replace real-life encounters.
Communication and health in focus
The topic of communication and its many facets is also the focus of the new #nabomade YouTube video by the nabo vloggers, Farid Zitoun and Christian Rüger. The two naturopaths not only talk about the health effects of social relationships in this video, but also give specific tips on how to cultivate meaningful relationships with other People today. Farid Zitoun already has one tip available: "No matter how we relate to digital communication, we should never underestimate the value of face-to-face Human encounters. A functioning social network can give us strength and joy for a happier life."
More about the link between communication and health can be found on nabo’s Tumblr page as well as on the institute's internal blog. Among other things, it deals with the consequences for coexistence, which digital communication has on today's generation of young adults.