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What Doctors Don't Tell You

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May 2018 (Vol. 3 Issue 3)

Doctors ignore a patient’s best healing agent—friends and family
About the author: 
Bryan Hubbard

Doctors ignore a patient’s best healing agent—friends and family image

Doctors are ignoring one of the most powerful healing agents around—the patient’s own network of family and friends, a new study has found. Instead of seeing more doctors, patients should be encouraged to interact with their social network in a ‘five-step ladder’ of support.

Good health and healing is more likely if people see fewer doctors and more of their family and friends, and especially if they get support and help from them, say researchers at Penn University.

The researchers have mapped out a five-step ladder of increasing support and interaction, and it's something doctors should be encouraging. People are more likely to make better health choices—such as taking a walk instead of watching TV—if they are with friends or family. And they are more likely to adopt other healthy habits, such as going to the gym, if they have someone to go with.

The lowest rung of the ladder is social isolation, when the patient doesn't interact with anyone, and the highest is a team of family and friends who take an active interest in the patient's well-being, and who support and encourage healthy habits.

Social interaction and support could help in a range of chronic problems, such as high blood pressure (hypertension), heart failure and diabetes, the researchers say.


References

(Source: New England Journal of Medicine, 2016; 375: 2511)

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