Maintaining social contacts with family and friends is important for all aspects of life. Having a close friend to lean on during hard times or someone to share the fun times with is essential. It can ease the pain and amplify the good times but what about physical ailments? There have been several social science studies conducted that indeed confirm that there is a definite link between social relationships and health outcomes. In fact the American Journal of Managed Care has stated that socially isolated people have a 43% risk of illness reoccurrence, a 64% higher risk of contracting a serious illness, and an astounding 69% higher risk of all-cause mortality whether it be from heart attack, chronic illness, or any variety and combination of health issues.
Studies Have Shown Quantity and quality of social relationships affect:
- Behavioral Health
- Physical Health
- Mental Health
- Mortality Risk
- COPD and Depression
Those Battling COPD are at a High Risk for Depression.
Necessary lifestyle changes can be disheartening at times. Loss of independence and having to cease activities that the person once enjoyed can cause the patient to isolate themselves and become increasingly detached. Studies have shown that patients that don’t work to form or maintain social contacts have a higher morbidity rate, more frequent exacerbations, and end up in the ER or hospital more often.
COPD patients with a larger social circle have more success with managing their disease.
- They are more likely to stick to an exercise regimen.
- Patients with friends who hold them accountable are more likely to begin and commence a tobacco free lifestyle.
- Stress has been known to trigger heart issues, hormone imbalance, and sleep issues that cause exacerbations so those with pals to talk worries out are less likely to experience these exacerbation risks.
- In especially stressful moments, such as diagnosis or during times of deterioration, positive social support is crucial to improvement and or slowing negative progression.
- Having good social contacts is said to improve one’s self care and discipline when it comes to taking medications or sticking to nutritional guidelines.
- People with healthy social connections are also more likely to seek medical attention sooner if concerns arise, leading to better outcomes.
Self-Esteem and COPD Management
Sometimes self-esteem suffers after a COPD diagnosis. Patients sometimes feel guilty after being diagnosed with a disease that is caused by risk factors such as smoking. Sometimes people will even say hurtful things to that effect making the person feel worse and causing them to withdraw from social contact. If you’re struggling with this, please seek counseling. Forgiving yourself is essential to successfully navigating management of COPD or any disease. Some are also embarrassed because of coughing fits or having to carry around oxygen equipment. It’s essential to surround yourself with people who support you in dealing with these feelings. If possible seek out others who are living with this condition too. You can support one another and share knowledge as well. The longer you let these ideas fester the more likely you are to become less and less active which accelerates the progression of COPD and many diseases.
To Gain Social Ties
If you live in a large urban area or if you are somewhere that you have lived for a long time, maintaining a social circle can be less of a challenge than if you are somewhere more geographically isolated or have relocated more recently. However, with some effort, you should be able to find a community of support anywhere. COPD is now the third most prevalent chronic disease worldwide, so please don’t feel alone.
Reach out to friends and family. People get busy with their own lives and sometimes it’s easy to lose contact but that doesn’t mean that they won’t be willing to lend you some support if you make your needs known.
Ask your doctor about pulmonary rehab. It’s beneficial in slowing the progression of your disease and also a good way to meet other people who are also battling the same disease that you are.
Call your local respiratory clinic or hospital to see if they have a support group. Or start one of your own. Churches and rec centers are often willing to offer the use of their facilities for these sorts of groups for free, or at a very low cost.
Join an exercise group or start one. Studies have shown that people who exercise as part of a group activity or class, are more likely to be disciplined about doing it.
There is any number of support groups on Facebook. Join in. The best person to ask health questions is either your doctor or respiratory therapist, but you can often get good information from these groups. They share articles, funny pictures, and just generally support one another. Often there are health professionals that may be part of the group as well and will answer questions or give advice.
Give back to the community and volunteer for a good cause. Even if you’re on an oxygen concentrator or have a tank, there are still volunteer opportunities for you in the community. It’s rewarding and a good place to meet like-minded individuals as well.
If you have a special interest such as gardening, cooking, reading, art, theater, etc. find a group that meets regularly! By the way, if you like music, singing or playing a wind instrument is great lung exercise!
Don’t Let Your Disease Put A Damper on your Social Life!
Yes it may take a little more effort than it used to on your part but it’s still possible. Not to mention that your health and happiness will benefit in the long run!