Social Strategies for Hard Times

An artist I saw recently on the nightly news had her own studio–but no one was buying.  When people are worried about putting food on the table and health insurance, the artist realized, paintings aren’t usually in their budget.  “But at least,” she told the reporter, “I hope that my old customers will still drop by if only to chat.”

When economics define hard times, it’s important to remind ourselves to take pleasure in the non-material reward of connecting with others.  It doesn’t pay the bills, but it can help alleviate the stress. And stress, as we all know, makes us more susceptible to illnesses, which then makes a bad situation worse.  Researchers put the risks associated with social isolation right up there with smoking and obesity. Continue Reading »

Social Isolation “Worsens Cancer”

Yesterday, that headline was picked up by the BBC News, Wall Street Journal, and Science Daily, and will undoubtedly continue travel through the blogosphere for weeks to come.  A study  conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago and reported in the journal Cancer Prevention Research (click here for the abstract) began six years ago when a team, led by a cancer specialist and a biobehavioral psychologist,  raised two groups of mice that were genetically predisposed to develop breast cancer.   Some lived with other mice and some lived alone.  After the same amount of time, the isolated mice grew larger breast cancer tumors.  Mice in the “stressful environment”–isolation–also behaved differently and had higher stress hormone levels.

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