Why Women with Tribes Live Longer, Healthier Lives

women with tribes meeting participation

We can all likely think of someone we enjoy spending time with. Maybe it’s our best friend or our sister. Just being around this person may improve our mood. She may make us feel better when we’re going through a difficult time. 

These connections that we share with others are our Tribes. To offer a more concrete definition, our Tribes are groups or individuals with whom we share beliefs, values, or interests. It could be your group of girlfriends from college or a running-mate at the gym.

Our Tribes are essential to our social well-being, but that’s not all. Research shows that they also help us to live longer, more fulfilling lives. 

Relationships Impact Our Health 

According to a University of Austin study by Debra Umberson, PhD, professor of sociology, and Jennifer Karas Montez, professor of sociology, social relationships can have short-term and long-term effects on our health, for better and for worse. Through my experience and research, the higher-quality our relationships are, the more likely we are to live longer, fulfilled lives.

In turn, lower-quality relationships can lead to higher instances of illnesses such as high blood pressure, cancer, and increased risk of mortality. 

In addition to relationship quality, our ability to connect matters as well. A 2015 study conducted by psychologist Julianne Holt-Lunstad and colleagues found that we expose ourselves to significant health risks when we are lonely or socially isolated. As many of us may be spending more time alone now amid the coronavirus pandemic, this underscores the importance that we stay connected, either virtually or by safely social distancing, with those in our lives.

For women, specifically, our relationships can be crucial to our health. Studies show that women with strong social networks are more likely to achieve better outcomes of breast cancer.

Of this, Dr. Epplein, Associate Professor of Population Health Sciences at Duke University and Co-Leader of the Cancer Control and Population Sciences Program in the Duke Cancer Institute, said: “When women are diagnosed with breast cancer, the research shows that it is critically important that they have a strong social support network within that first year. While social well-being can be developed post-diagnosis, as women, we will be better positioned to navigate the impact if we build and invest in our social networks and Tribes beforehand.”

Positive Peer Pressure Matters

Our Tribes can expose us to positive peer pressure that may impact our behaviors and experiences. For example, your Tribe may encourage you to try new things, pursue a passion project, or embark on travel. 

In addition, our Tribes can have a positive impact on our physical and mental health. Research shows that our social ties can cause us to feel a greater sense of concern for others, which leads us to take actions that encourage better health outcomes for others and ourselves. I’ve found this to be true in my own experience. 

There was a time when I knew I needed to make some positive health changes by working out and eating better. I was lucky that a few of the women in my Tribe were also looking to make the same changes. We spent time talking about our journeys, what was working, and things that were a complete flop. We sometimes exercised together and organized healthy meals when our families got together.

In the end, our weight loss ranged from twenty to more than fifty pounds. The impact on our health was tremendous: blood pressure and blood sugar levels were lowered, and injuries disappeared. 

Support Through Difficult Times 

Life is hectic. It’s easy to get mired down in the pressures of our lives. Some days we need our Tribes to survive. Especially now, as we’re all dealing with the added stress of an election year and the coronavirus pandemic, we need our Tribes more than ever. 

Having a strong support system is important for both our professional and personal relationships. Research shows that having a strong Tribe at work reduces the likelihood of burnout and improves our well-being by providing us with a strong sense of belonging. 

When we are feeling stressed or managing through a difficult situation, we may have a natural tendency to isolate ourselves. It’s time to shift that way of thinking and lean into our Tribes for support, whether at home or work.

Living Our Most Fulfilling Lives

Our Tribes have incredible benefits to both our social well-being and our health. They encourage us to make positive changes and support us through difficult times. 

If we want to live longer, healthier, happier lives, we have to find and maintain quality relationships personally and professionally. Doing so is not always easy, but the rewards are well worth it. 

If we have Tribes that support us, affirm us, push us up, and catch us when we fall, consider how much more likely we are to thrive and do great things. 

The article adapted from Assemble the Tribe, by Leah Dean.

Leah is a coach, speaker, author, and former chief human resources executive who has worked with leaders throughout the world to build high-performing teams, or tribes, for twenty years. A passionate believer in assembling tribes for greatest impact, Leah is the founder of numerous programs and events designed to help women and girls find their tribes and do great things. Leah lives in Bermuda with her husband and two children. Join the tribe and learn more about Leah’s work and tribe mindset philosophy at www.leahjmdean.com.

For more advice on building a Tribe, you can find Assemble the Tribe on Amazon.

Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.