We have know that culture and our mental outlook towards people around us determines our mental/emotional health. But a new research links our beliefs to tangible physical health benefits.
"We know that social support has profound health implications; yet, in this case, this is more a story of beliefs than of actual family support," said Cleopatra Abdou, assistant professor at the USC Davis School of Gerontology.
Abdou surveyed 4,633 socioeconomically disadvantaged white, black and Hispanic women, gauging their "familism," or, more specifically, their beliefs about familial roles and responsibilities. Familism was determined by responses to statements such as, "Single moms can do just as well as married parents," or "It is better for children if their parents are married."
Abdou then tried to correlate the the health of their children and the mother's belief in family and discovered that, for every one-point increase in familism, there was a 71-gram increase in birth-weight. We should remember that the average birth-weight in the U.S. is roughly 3,400 grams and low birth-weight[ 2,500 grams] has been linked to health problems later in life. Higher familism also was related to lower incidence of asthma in the children up to three years later.
Obviously mothers who get strong family support will have healthier babies. But the surprising bit is that it's not the actual family support she received that mattered, but the value that the mother placed on family values that did.
"Cultural beliefs and ideals can be distinct from one's present reality. Familism is about beliefs and ideals within families. That's why familism is referred to as a cultural resource. The cultural resource of familism appears to favorably impact both reproductive health in mothers as well as critical markers of physical health in offspring. That is, the transmission of health from one generation to another," Abdou said.
Abdou's findings were published online in the journal Social Science & Medicine, in an article co-authored by Tyan Parker Dominguez of USC and Hector F. Myers of UCLA.
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