Healthy relationships can help make for a healthier life overall. As humans, the relationships we form with other people are vital to our mental and emotional wellbeing. Debra Umberson and Karas Montez, through their work “Social Relationships and Health: a flashpoint for health policy”, published in PubMed Central, define social integration as “the overall level of involvement with informal social relationships, such as [friendships], and with formal social relationships, such as those with religious institutions and volunteer organisations”. The publication also expresses that social relationships have great impact on an individual’s health and there are three broad ways that social relationships work to influence health, namely physiological, psychosocial, and behavioural.
Psychosocial mechanisms such as social support and personal control show how social relationships promote health. Social support refers to the emotionally sustaining qualities of relations and may indirectly influence health by fostering a sense of meaning and purpose in one’s life as well as reducing the effects of stress. Personal control refers to individuals’ belief that they can control their life outcomes through their own actions. Mental health is another mechanism working to shape physical health, exemplified by how emotional support provided by social ties enhances well-being, which may reduce the risk of poor health choices such as drinking and smoking.
Physiologically, supportive social ties benefit the immune, endocrine and cardiovascular functions. They also trigger biological effects such as reduced blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormones.
Some healthy behaviours such as nutritionally balanced diets and exercise promote health while others such as drug abuse and excessive weight gain tend to undermine health. Social relationships often instil a sense of responsibility which could lead individuals to engaging in behaviours that protect one’s own health as well as of those around them.
Student Services at the University of Queensland expresses that people need not be physically isolated to experience loneliness, as loneliness may be experienced when people have less quality social contact than they would like. As a result, they may experience constant feelings of anger, sadness or helplessness which could, over time, lead to anxiety, depression, the questioning of one’s self-worth or the belief that their situation could never improve. Suggestions such as taking opportunities to meet with new people and interacting with them as well as keeping active are listed as some of the ways with which to combat loneliness.
There is a plethora of initiatives that a student could participate in at that University of Pretoria, including joining a society, becoming an active member of their faculty, joining a day house and take part in organised student life activities, joining Tuks Rag or even joining TuksFM or Perdeby, depending on their individual preferences.
Nthabiseng Manyama, a marketing and ambassador executive committee member for Tuks Rag, asserts that Tuks Rag aims to make positive impacts not only in an individual student’s life but also amongst students themselves. She further goes on to say, “through [Rag] initiatives, students are given the opportunity to work and engage with other students from different backgrounds, with different beliefs, perspectives and personalities [making] room for social cohesion”. She refers to the success of Rag of Hope Day 2018 and how it proved just how “different people from different backgrounds can come together and make one event a success”.
In an interview with BeWell@Stanford, author and former affiliated scholar with the Clayman Institute for Gender Research, Cecile Andrews, encourages students to “talk to people, introduce [themselves], ask questions, tell stories [and] be interested” She also goes on to suggest that if a student joins a group, they must do more than just send in their work but rather meet up with the group and collectively work on group projects.
Manyama also reinforces this by expressing that “students can enjoy a number of benefits from involvement/participation in Rag initiatives both in their personal and professional life. Gaining important life experiences, meeting new people and most importantly, cultivating connections/good working relationships with various organisations, schools, and community groups”, however, she stresses that “it is important for one to have a support system [such as] a group of friends or colleagues that one can speak to and knows they are always willing to lend a helping hand”. She further goes on to say that “proper planning and time management [are] essential to a student’s life” to combat the stress from trying to balance the challenging aspects of student life.
Illustration: Rhodeen Davies