This New Year, be a little more social as friends and family have great potential to help you develop new healthy habits and stay the course, suggests a study.
The study suggests that hospitals can also engineer social incentives among friends and family to improve health care of their patients.
Leveraging relationships with friends and family may be a more effective way to improve patients' health and encourage new healthy habits and behaviours than increasing interactions with physicians or other clinicians, the researchers noted.
"Spouses and friends are more likely to be around patients when they are making decisions that affect their health -- like taking a walk versus watching TV, or what to order at a restaurant," explained co-author David Asch, professor at Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, US.
Patients are also more likely to adopt healthy behaviours -- like going to the gym -- when they can go with a friend, Asch noted.
In the perspective article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers suggested how social engagements could promote health.
"Though people are more heavily influenced by those around them every day than they are by doctors and nurses they interact with only occasionally, these cost-free interactions remain largely untapped when engineering social incentives for health. That's a missed opportunity," Asch pointed out.
"Sure, health care is serious business, but who says it can't be social," Asch added.