Oct 10, 2007

Despite the romantic prevalence of so many real or fictional man-as-solitary-loner archetypes in literature and pop culture (Henry David Thoreau, the Old Man and the Sea, the Lone Ranger, etc.), what men truly need in order to be as healthy as they can be is social interaction — yes, even rugged, individualist men like the Marlboro man. And now, there's credible research that shows just how important frequent and fulfilling bonding among males really is.

A group of researchers from Sweden conducted a 15-year health study on a pool of nearly 750 men of varying backgrounds and determined that those with the greatest amount of social interaction — contact with many friends they saw on a regular basis — were less than half as likely to have heart disease, all other factors being equal (smoking, weight, job-related stress, etc.).

Furthermore, the men in the study who showed the most evidence of a deep emotional attachment to their friends (not simply frequency of contact) proved only 58% as likely to DEVELOP heart disease as their more loner-esque counterparts. These findings amount to an astonishing reduction in risk — far greater, I'll wager, than any prescription drug can credibly boast.

What does all of this mean? It means that your monthly poker night or round of golf with the boys (or whatever the bunch of you do for fun) is not only good for your soul — it's crucial for your heart and every other aspect of your health, too. Yes, even if you down a few belts of good scotch or smoke a cigar or two (especially so, if you ask me) in the course of having fun. The research offered up no hypothesis as to WHY social interaction made such a difference in the heart disease risk of the study's men, but do we really even need to guess at the reasons? Isn't the answer obvious?

Of course it is. Common sense should tell us that the personal happiness and a sense of belonging we derive from spending quality time with people of like mind and sensibilities (friends, in other words) is vital to life — and to REALLY LIVING — no matter what our sex. And it takes no high-falutin' study from Sweden to prove it, but it was Swede of them to do it.
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