Social groups help members cope better with challenges

 Belonging to groups, such as networks of friends, family, clubs and sport teams, affects mental health because groups provide support, help one feel good about self and keep one active. Membership of different groups might also help to make one psychologically and physically stronger, reports the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Researchers Janelle Jones and Jolanda Jetten of the University of Queensland studied how group memberships might give people the resilience to face novel and aversive challenges.
In one study, they asked an army of soldiers, undergoing ice-camp training, to wear heart-rate monitors while experiencing their first bobsled, luge, or skeleton runs—an exciting, but very stressful occasion, according to a Queensland release.

The soldiers who belonged to many groups returned to their normal heart-rate faster than the soldiers who did not. People with many memberships recovered from the stress more quickly.

Jones and Jetten randomly assigned 56 college students to think about one, three, or five groups that they were members of, and to describe why the group was important to them. The participants took a challenging task—keeping one hand in a bucket of near-freezing water.

The more group memberships the participants had thought about, the longer they were able to keep their hand in the icy water. People who were told to think about five groups were able to keep their hand in twice as long as people who were told to think about only one group.

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