For many, physical health is something that is always in the back of their mind. From the top 10 weight loss tips on magazines to getting your flu shot every season, people are constantly thinking about their physical health. However, did you know that your social health can affect your physical health? This effect may not always be positive. Dr. Muscatell from the UNC Department of Psychology and Neuroscience gave a Grand Rounds talk around the topic of Socioeconomic Influences on Social Behavior and Physical Health.
Socioeconomic status tends to correlate positively with physical health. However, this is the opposite for social health. This is usually seen as a positive, and can be a positive trait. Lower socioeconomic individuals tend to have a higher sense of community, more compassion towards others and greater sense of charity. Although these two factors are normally viewed independently and through the separate lenses of Medicine and Psychology, Dr. Muscatell draws a parallel between the two. She describes another aspect of having a higher degee of social health – mentalizing.When you are at the bottom of the totem pole, it becomes a lot more important to be cognisant of the thoughts and feelings of the people above you. Lower socioeconomic individuals tend to be more empathetic leading to increased thinking of others’ opinions or feelings about themselves. If the thoughts of others are negative, this can lead to a perceived threat within the individual. Usually perceived threats cause a physiological response within the body. This response includes increased stress levels in the body and increased activity in a center of the brain related to fear, the amygdala. The stress responses in bad contexts could be one of the causes for the lower physical health seen in individuals with lower socioeconomic statuses. This could be the cause for increased immune system activation during social evaluation.
Although there could be negative effects of increased social behavior, there are also positive effects! Though there is spread of negativity, there can also be spread of positivity. This positivity can increase mood and reduce stress as well. Social behavior health is still very important and can also increase physical health.
Dr. Muscatell offered unique perspectives to the paradox of social behavior and physical health. Thank you for presenting your hard work and ending Fall 2017 Grand Rounds with a bang!
Akhila Boyina is also working on the Dance and Diabetes project.