In all stages of life, people establishe social relationships that contribute to our emotional state and positively impact on health.
Medical Advisor: Edwin Etayo. Geriatrician
People who are socially active have lower rates of chronic diseases, depression and cognitive impairment. It is therefore important to remember that there are several benefits to socializing and creating emotional bonds with others throughout the different stages of life.
As babies and throughout childhood
From the day we are born, it is very important to have physical contact; one of the benefits of breastfeeding, for example. The Ministry of Health and Social Protection in Columbia not only emphasizes the nutritional value of breast milk, “But also its contribution to emotional wellbeing, as the bond that is created between a mother and the baby is a special, unique and intense experience that also creates a bond with the father and the family.”
In order to prevent premature death in babies, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection also promotes the use of the kangaroo mother care technique. This method consists of keeping them in direct contact with the skin of another person for 24 hours a day. The baby should feed on breastmilk, if at all possible, and when are not enough resources to keep the child in a medical facility, the baby can continue their development at home under regular medical supervision. With the objective of taking a more humane approach to neonatal care, the kangaroo care was developed in Colombia and has been used successfully in many other countries throughout the world. Currently, it is being studied whether this method has additional benefits to a baby’s development.
Once this nucleus of family support is created, it is also important for babies to establish relationships with their peers, which allows them to learn from others and experience different realities. Specialists note that childhood friendships help improve self-esteem and regulate emotions; they should not be forced, however. Parents can help by fostering an environment for children to get to know each other through play, creating a natural bond. When this does not occur naturally, however, this is a personal decision and should be respected. It has also been shown that children often learn by example. If the child’s parents are social and have good relationships with their friends, children can learn to have their own friendships.
With this age group, friends are not only a source of experiences, they can serve as a source of support when the world seems so strange and hostile. By seeing that others are going though similar changes, they feel less alone and have someone that understands them as they cope with their own conflicts. Friends at this age are also an excellent source of fun and entertainment when playing games or playing with parents isn’t always an option. Spending time with friends has a positive effect on mood and prevents teens from feeling depressed.
The relationship between parents and children should be strong and solid so that the child can have high self-esteem and confront the vicissitudes of life with assurance and confidence.
Friendships as adults aren’t as simple. Friends often get caught up in their responsibilities and little by little, their social circle is reduced to those people that are seen on a daily basis. These people are not necessarily good friends and may just be casual relationships that do not offer the benefits of true friendship. It is also common to have certain friends for certain things; people you do a specific activity with. Perhaps you don’t share all aspects of life with these people, just those related to the sport you play or the work you do, for example.
In an interview with the El País newspaper from Spain, Luis García Tojar, a sociologist from the Complutense University of Madrid, states that friendship is becoming increasingly volatile. Friendships are made and broken easily, and they often represent interests that go beyond socializing with one another, such as business networking. Modern society is also becoming more individualistic, as technology allows us to easily isolate ourselves from the world and makes it easier for us to establish contact with people who are far away from us than with those who are close by.
Friends at this stage in life can support us as we transition through periods such as retirement or when children leave the house, as new routines can be established with them.
For the elderly
According to geriatrician Edwin Etayo, socializing helps the elderly break away from the pattern of frailty and disability associated with this age group, inspiring them to stay active. There is a problem, however, with this age group’s biopsychosocial model, “Staying at home, struggling to build a lifestyle and not participating in activities is common among this population, and there is a greater risk of experiencing physical and mental complications.”
For Etayo, it is important for people to get out of the house, interact with others and stay active. “For those who are senior citizens, senior centers and activity groups for the elderly are important, and I believe they are still underused at this point,” Etayo explains.
Motivate the elderly to stay active, avoid over protecting them, and encourage them to strengthen their support networks so that in the event of a problem, there are people that can be there for them.
At this age, it is normal to experience periods of quietness, especially when going through the loss of a loved one. If these periods become too frequent, however, it is better to take action with professional help or help by motivating this population to go out, but without forcing them.
Emotional bonds are a part of almost all we do. They are fundamental to how we behave, and to our social development.