Birds of a feather flock together. And we see so many of our seniors join groups towards a common goal. One such group is a ‘Water Club’ where in elders meet to discuss benefits of drinking water. The health benefits of such ‘water clubs’ in care homes for the elderly owe as least as much to the social nature of the activity as to the value of drinking water itself, an investigation by psychologists has shown.
The study, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), confirms that interventions aimed at improving individuals’ wellbeing and quality of life can be far more effective if they are targetted at groups of people in ways that generate a strong sense of group identity.
A team led by Professor Alex Haslam of the University of Exeter studied the members of the club who, as per the study, reported enhanced wellbeing, fewer falls and better hydration than those who drank water alone.
“It is clear from this research and a series of other investigations that we have carried out that when people belong to a group, the sense of ‘us-ness’ that this creates plays a critically important role in processes of health and wellbeing,” said Professor Haslam. “We refer to this as ‘the social cure’,” collaborator Professor Catherine Haslam said, “and it is far more potent than many of the other treatments that are out there. Whether we are talking about stress, depression, or recovery from stroke, a supportive group life plays a critical role in a person’s clinical path.”
The researchers, together with another ESRC-funded researcher, Professor Jolanda Jetten, have published their findings in a book, ‘The Social Cure’, which brings together evidence from around the world showing how groups are central to health and wellbeing. “Humans are social animals – we have evolved for group life,” said Professor Jetten, co author of the book.
“Groups can boost our wellbeing but, at times, they can also drag us down and be a social curse. Precisely because group life is such an important determinant of health and wellbeing, we need to better understand these processes and dynamics” Professor Jetten concluded.