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Changing Relationships. American social networks.

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Who do you call when you need a friend?

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You might wonder what an article on friendship has to do with your health.

  • Who do you call when it's 3 am and you don't know why your kid's crying?
  • Who do you call when you're sick with the flu and the cupboard's bare?
  • Who do you call to pick up your elderly mom from the doctor when you're stuck at work?
  • Who's going to take you to the dentist to have your wisdom teeth pulled -- or for that colonoscopy you're so looking forward to -- or for your cataract surgery?
  • Who do you call when you need to choose between cancer treatments for your husband -- or yourself?
  • Who can you count on to get you out the door for that early morning walk when you'd really rather veg out with a cup of strong coffee?
  • Who do you call when your community is evacuated in the face of a natural disaster and you need a place to go?

Back in the day, these were situations where people wouldn't hesitate about who to call. They'd call a friend.

Changing Social Networks

Back in the day, people belonged to community networks. Church groups, bowling leagues, kindergarten moms, bridge clubs, social clubs that remind us of backwoods animals.

We had our friends, and they had us.

Now it's work, work, after school activities, work, cook, and back to work. Oh, and maybe a bit of sleep in there somewhere. When's the last time you went bowling? Played bridge? Had the girls over for coffee on a Wednesday morning?

It seems like our social networks are shrinking, doesn't it? And while you might trade veggie lasagna recipes with Jane from Marketing, it probably wouldn't look too good to phone her up at 3 am when your kid's crying and you don't know what to do next.

Well, research shows we're not just making this up. The June issue of American Sociological Review features a research study gathered by sociologists at Duke University and the University of Arizona: "Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks Over Two Decades."

Comparable studies performed in 1985 and 2004 found that the number of people that Americans report they can talk through important things with has dropped by nearly a third in those 19 years.

That's a third less people to call when you need a friend — whether it's for a lift to the doctor, a voice of reason in the middle of the night, or a place to stay for a few weeks (ok, maybe months) while you wait to get your house back.

And that's a health problem, wouldn't you say?

To do: Get together for coffee or a walk around the block with someone who's not from work or your immediate family. Stop by the neighbor's yard to compliment her flower garden. Send a "thinking of you" card to someone you haven't spoken with in a while. You might even make a healthy living project out of it.


Elizabeth Eckert can help you explore how simple everyday choices create health - or undermine even the best of intentions. With a background that ranges from energy medicine to structural bodywork to developmental psychology, this "Stick-To-It Coach" has the experience to support you in creating the healthiest possible expression of — you!

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