As testified to since antiquity in the world’s pan-cultural literature, human beings have long recognized that the lack of strong, deep, face-to-face social bonds could prove deadly to both body and soul.

Throughout the ages, body and mind were viewed as being in interdependent relationship with each affecting the other. But beginning with the European Enlightenment, body and mind began to be regarded as completely separate and entities, with the intrinsic relationship between the two artificially severed.

At the apex of this dissociation – described by the philosophical stance known as scientific materialism – psychology and biology were not uncomfortable bedfellows but actually refused to even inhabit the same house.   

But in the 1990’s with the advent of psychoneuroimmunology and the discovery of mirror neurons, and more recently with advances in the field of embodied cognition and the results of Harvard’s 75-year longitudinal study on psychosocial factors of health and longevity, this dissociation is giving way to new integration.

In 2018, reams of peer-reviewed research and data is now generated daily demonstrating the intimate relationship between body and mind, proving what many people have intuited all along: close human relationships are the bedrock of not just happiness but also of health.

These findings mimic many of the findings of Susan Pinker’s research into the link between what she terms “social integration” – how much face-to-face interaction a person experiences – and health and longevity.

Her now famous research, brought to popular consciousness in her best-selling book, The Village Effect, demonstrates that social integration (which can be understand as the day-to-day experience of face-to-face contact with those to whom an individual feels closely connected) has a greater impact on health and longevity than quitting smoking, quitting drinking, receiving regular flu vaccines, undergoing cardiac rehab, and even exercising and maintaining a normal body weight.

With this and many other similar studies being released, it’s no wonder that those in the Michigan Kellogg Eye Center study with close relationships had an enormously higher rate of receiving cataract surgery.

Among findings of the study, it was noted that adult children had more influence on their older parent’s decision to receive cataract surgery than did the parent’s friends, spouses, or partners. Though the reasons for this are unclear, they are likely multiple and include logistical, visual, psychological, and financial variables that warrant further study:

  • Logistical. Adult children may see their older parent inconsistently, making impairment related to untreated cataracts more apparent to them than to those their parent sees more frequently.
  • Visual. Due to relationships beginning at birth, adult children may make a qualitatively different kind of eye contact with their parents, allowing them to notice subtle changes in their parent’s eyes that are less noticeable to others.
  • Psychological. Parents may have a greater psychological incentive to act on their children’s urgings to receive treatment than they do their friends’, spouse’s, or partner’s.
  • Financial. Adult children’s urgings for their older parents to receive cataract surgery may come with assurances of financial or other kinds of support (like driving them to their doctor) needed to pursue the decision for treatment. (These forms of support may be less likely to be offered by friends, spouses, or partners.)

Though the study presents numerous questions that will need to be taken up by other researchers, the study’s authors are clear about its implications: “A nuanced understanding of the impact of social support networks is important to develop as we implement strategies to improve access to cataract surgery for a rapidly growing older population,” says study author Brian Stagg, M.D., a Kellogg ophthalmologist and health services researcher at the University of Michigan.

Cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed eye procedures with one of the highest rates of satisfaction and improvement in patients’ quality of life. At EyeCare 20/20, you’ll find advocates and partners in helping you and those you love see the world more clearly. To learn more about cataract surgery or other eyecare services, contact them today and see why they’re known as New Jersey’s friendliest and most advanced vision health provider.

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