Staying Healthy

Can varied social interactions boost well-being?

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By , Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

photo of two women sitting on the porch steps of a house, talking and holding mugs

How many people have you interacted with today, and what kinds of relationships do you have with them? A study led by our colleagues at Harvard Business School, published online Oct. 17, 2022, by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that the more diverse your "portfolio" of social interactions, the happier you’ll be. Researchers evaluated the responses from four different surveys of more than 51,000 people around the world. Respondents reported their well-being or happiness and their previous day’s social interactions (whether they interacted with strangers, acquaintances, friends, or family). Scientists found that the more diverse the relationships were, the happier respondents said they felt, over and above their total time spent interacting and the total number of interactions they had. In other words, beyond seeing your spouse or family every day, you may get an additional happiness boost if you also see or chat with other people in your world, such as a coworker, the check-out person at your grocery store, a neighbor, a dear friend, or a buddy you haven’t talked to in a while. The study found only an association and doesn’t prove conclusively that diverse social interactions improve well-being. But why not try it? The interactions might just make your day.

Image: © MoMo Productions/Getty Images

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About the Author

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Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

Heidi Godman is the executive editor of the Harvard Health Letter. Before coming to the Health Letter, she was an award-winning television news anchor and medical reporter for 25 years. Heidi was named a journalism fellow … See Full Bio
View all posts by Heidi Godman

About the Reviewer

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Anthony L. Komaroff, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Health Letter

Dr. Anthony L. Komaroff is the Steven P. Simcox/Patrick A. Clifford/James H. Higby Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, senior physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and editor in chief of the Harvard … See Full Bio
View all posts by Anthony L. Komaroff, MD

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