All posts by Kristina Parro

Wall Street Bets and Game Stop Squeeze: A Short Story

Gather ‘round, my friends. It’s story time.

Once upon a time, a few days ago, the short interest on Game Stop (GME) was 140% and the shares hit $490. It began to experience a short squeeze.

But what does this mean??

Let’s think about it in terms of a drug dealer… we’ll call our hypothetical drug dealer, Melvin Citadel, off the character’s inspiration.

Melvin sells MDMA. There’s a big concert coming up. Everyone wants to be like Miley, at the concert, dancing with molly.

“So, la-da-di-da-di, we like to party… and we can’t stop, and we won’t stop.”

Melvin borrows 1400 “pills” to return later and pay interest on them, even though only 1000 exist. How can he do this?

Melvin never actually holds the MDMA—he isn’t about the drug life. He’s a businessman. You can’t get high on your own supply. He borrows the pills and will return them when they’re cheaper in the future. He then pockets the change.

He has a plan — if he can sell the pills for cheaper and the local drug dealer goes out of business, then he will make a much better return on his investment.

So that’s what he does, or tries to do.

Trying to drive the friendly neighborhood drug dealer, Game Stop, out of business, Melvin drove the price of the MDMA down to $4. Melvin secretly hopes that the price of MDMA goes down to $0.

Remember, there’s only 1000 MDMA pills.

Game Stop sees what’s happening, however, and isn’t going to go down without a fight. Game Stop buys 100 MDMA pills from Melvin, all they can afford. Their friends at Wall Street Bets like MDMA too, and they buy 100 MDMA pills. Now there are only 800 MDMA pills left on the streets.

Another big investor, came in and gobbled up 300 MDMA pills. Now, there are only 500 pills left on the streets, but Melvin still need to return 1400 pills.

The price of MDMA skyrockets because the big investor decides to start selling MDMA online. Now, everyone is interested in MDMA pills.

There’s always been options available on MDMA pills. When the price starts to go up, higher option prices start being written. When the higher option prices are bought, the people (banks, etc) who write the options buy pills in case the options are exercised. This is called gamma hedging. This causes the price of the pills to go up even higher.

Someone at Wall Street Bets realized the situation that Melvin was in and the Reddit army buys more MDMA pills to fuck with Melvin. They like their neighborhood dealer, Game Stop. They don’t want him to go out of business. They don’t like Melvin. Melvin has been getting away with this kind of stuff for ages—at the expense of many of their families. The Reddit army buy 200 more pills.

The price of the MDMA pill rises from $4 to over $400, because demand far outweighed supply.

As the supply of MDMA on the streets dwindled, Melvin tried his hardest to manipulate the price of the drug.

See, Melvin and his friends invested in Robinhood, a marketplace where MDMA is sold.

Robinhood customers buy and sell drugs, as a gateway between regular people and Market Makers like Melvin. On RH, the trades don’t “settle” or “close” until 2 days later. Depending on the net of buys/sells, RH is on the hook to pay or receive money to cover the buys and sells of the drugs. That’s called credit risk. Gap risk measure is, then, their exposure to interest rate risk.

RH decided to only allow people to sell their MDMA vs buy more MDMA, which of course, caused the price to plummet d/t artificially decreased demand in order to decrease their gap risk measure. RH’s CEO got on national television and admitted to doing so to decrease the price of MDMA back to what, he thinks, is normal levels.

This is illegal.

There are rumors that Melvin encouraged RH to do this, because Melvin’s debts are starting to get called in and he is worried about paying for it.

Because Melvin sold more MDMA pills than they are on the market, the people who own MDMA pills get to determine their price. Melvin knows that soon he will have to pay any price to return the pills he borrowed.

Legend says, the price could go up to $10,000… as long as you exercise the same caution as Melvin: never get high on your own supply.

Importance of Myths in 2021

For those who don’t know me personally, I am a speech-language pathologist who specializes in working with medically-complex adults.

“But, I thought speech therapists just worked with kids who have lisps, though,” you may be thinking.

SLPs actually have many tools in their belt, to rehabilitate disorders related to speech, language, cognitive-communication, and feeding/swallowing across the lifespan. To the surprise of many, a Master’s degree is required to get certified to be an SLP.

I brag, to help explain my vast knowledge of language. Lately, I’ve become fascinated by what we can learn from it.

If you read my last blog post, you may have learned a new word: etymology. Maybe you looked up a few words on etymonline.com

Etymology is the study of the origin of words. Etymologies are not definitions; they are explanations of what modern words meant and sounded like hundreds of thousands of years ago. A word’s etymology can help make sense of invasions, migrations, and popular culture over time.

If there’s interest, I will explain this in further detail in an upcoming blog post, but I’ll try to, quickly, give you the main idea.

It turns out, most of our modern words can be traced to a theorized common ancestor—the Proto-Indo Europeans. The picture below, obtained from the Guardian, maps how languages have become, overtime. Just like humans, language is constantly changing and evolving.

Map of world languages, compiled by The Guardian

Almost all common English words stem from the European branch of the “Proto-Indo European tree.” This group has the prefix, “Proto-,“ because they are literally a prototype; a reasoned hypothesis of the language spoke between 4500 BC to 2500 BC.

The history of words can give us an unprecedented look into history throughout time, as they are, maybe, as close as you can get to a first-hand, un-biased historical account. It can also help us reinterpret the words of our ancient, intellectual fore founders.

Okay… time for what you came for.

Let’s talk about myths!

Etymology of myth, from Etsy online.com

The word, myth, is one that is difficult for us to define; probably because the word itself is a mystery, even to linguists and historians. It doesn’t have a proto-European root. It can’t be traced back; but experts believe that it may have been coined before the Intellects of Ancient Greece.

The word myth, just like the idea of it, mystically graced human-kind—through music.

Homer and Hesiod were ancient poets, who wrote ‘epic poetry.’ They travelled around Europe and the Middle East in ~700 B.C, sharing their stories with ‘hoi polloi,’ or ignorant masses. Homer and Hesiod called themselves ‘aodoi,’ a word that meant singer or bard. The word myth was first found written down in Homer’s work.

I like to think of Homer and Hesiod as modern day pop stars.

Like modern day pop stars, they were… worshipped, almost like false gods. Plato documented in his book, Republic, that Homer and the aodois knew “all the arts and all things pertaining to virtue, vice, and all things divine.” Their word, to Plato, was very close to the word of the gods.

Most of their poems, or songs, were long, winding narratives about heroes and war. Looking closer, you can see that their work articulated in writing, for the first time, a physical and moral/social order of the universe. Their work heavily influenced ancient philosophers and intellects.

Since the mid-1800’s, however, myth began to carry a connotation of “untrue,” “a rumor,” “fiction.” People began to prefer true stories, first hand accounts, stories about real lives. People began looking at myths with disdain. They became banned from schools.

And along the way, myths lost their magic.

No longer do children gather together to hear stories about courageous kings, scary monsters, beautiful but jealous gods and intelligent but promiscuous goddesses.

Myths, however, still are important.

Myths have such a deep history, they lie at the very foundation of Western thought.

Myths are something that helped our intellectual forefathers, like Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, interpret the world around them. Myths may also be how they passed on life lessons. Ancient philosophers, such as Parmenides (the father of deductive logic), understood myth (along with ‘logos,’ rational discourse) as crucial to his understanding (and potential mastering) of the universe.

Myths can’t be explained.

Like a joke, once you try to explain or prove a myth, you destroy it. Myth-telling is diametrically opposed from explanatory thinking or “science.” Still, if you look, you find them to be omnipresent—in literature, film, art, music and playing out in real life.

Myths are functional and attempt to explain.

Carl Jung believed that our psychological archetypes could be found in the fabrics of myths. Many have considered myths to be styles of existence. You study myths to recognize them, but you’ll never catch one in your net.

Myths can teach us lessons.

A return to Greek myths, in particular, help us understand the three high points in human cultural existence; the Romans, the Reinessance and the Romantic Periods. They may even be able to help us understand how (and if) human-kind has gone astray.

Myths are almost synonymous with language.

Plato understood myth to be synonymous with “oral literature.” For an ethnologist, myth is a “message or set of messages that a social group thinks it has received from its ancestors and that it transmits orally from generation to generation.”

It sounds like the ancients’ definition of ‘myth’ is kind of like… our modern definition for ‘folkore,’ doesn’t it?

Folklore album primer; the highlighted section reads: “A tale that becomes folklore is one that is passed down and whispered around. Sometimes even sung about. The lines between fantasy and reality blur and the boundaries between truth and fiction become almost indiscernible. Speculation, over time, becomes fact. Myths, ghost stories, and fables. Fairytales and parables. Gossip and lend. Someone’s secrets written in the sky for all to behold.” rights belong to Taylor Swift

We can think of folklore as a modern take on mythology. Folklore recognizes that good stories are added to and changed over time, but still have an important message. The core of every good story is transcendent. It doesn’t matter who tells it, the message is the same.

Why should we study myths?

It is not about learning all of the details, understanding the conflicting family trees and who defeated who… It is important to learn to think mythically. If you do, and study the Greek myths, they will open you wider. Myths can humble the ego. They teach us that injustice will always be met, in some way or another. They can consciously and subconsciously influence your perception of what is real and what is true.

Myths are stories of the collective unconscious playing out. However, the story-teller will never be able to tell you what the story means. You have to abduct it, yourself. A curious mind, is often an intelligent one.

I’ll leave you with these beautiful Barbara Streisand lyrics, from one of my favorite musicals. Into the Woods.

Children Will Listen

How do you say to your child in the night

Nothing is all black but then nothing is all white?

How do you say it will all be alright

When you know that it mightn’t be true?

What do you do?

Careful the things you say

Children will listen

Careful the things you do

Children will see

And learn

Children may not obey

But children will listen

Children will look to you

For which way to turn

To learn what to be

Careful before you say

“Listen to me”

Children will listen

Careful the wish you make

Wishes are children

Careful the path they take

Wishes come true

Not free

Careful the spell you cast

Not just on children

Sometimes the spell may last

Past what you can see

And turn against you

Careful the tale you tell

That is the spell

Children will listen

How can you say to a child who’s in flight

Don’t slip away and I won’t hold so tight?

What can you say that no matter how slight won’t be misunderstood?

What do you leave to your child when you’re dead

Only what ever you put in its head

Things that your mother and father had said

Which were left to them too

Careful what you say, children will listen

Careful you do it too, children will see and learn, oh

Guide them but step away

Children will glisten

Temper with what is true

And children will turn

If just to be free

Careful before you say

“Listen to me”

Children will listen

Children will listen

Children will listen

Welcome to Logos!

Hey, I’m Kristina Parro. Welcome to Logos.

My debut novel, Lucky, is coming soon.

Lucky is a modern-day allegory; an epic juxtaposition of glitter and tragedy, told through the eyes of two women who are connected through the transcendental nature of time and space. The women are connected through the unlikely coincidences that make up our human experience.

Both have extremely unique perspectives on the world. That was, originally, what piqued my attention.

Lucky tells both women’s stories, as well as my own journey through history, philosophy, math, music and time.

One is the story of an unlikely heiress, who stole away with today’s equivalent of ~$2 billion and proceeded to burn it all, in an epic fulfillment of her familial proverb, ‘shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves.’

The other story begins with a young girl who just wants to make music and be loved. In a curious chain of events, she becomes an international superstar. Her rational outlook on the world, which in large part helped her rise to that level of success, ultimately is her downfall. She gets to the top, looks around, and wonders,”is this it? Is this really what all of that was for?”

Lucky cover mock up; photos by Aleen Olivares

Rationality can get in the way of good fun. Sometimes, when you mix rationality with a good story, it becomes impossible to unsee the truth.

Writing a book is a funny thing. Some days it seems like an impossible feat, like if I tried to run a marathon or ski Mt. Everest. At the end of the day though, a book is just a bunch of words. You string the words together and, suddenly, you have a story.

As a speech-language pathologist, I’ve always been fascinated by the way words work; their history, their deep meaning, and how they can be broken into smaller parts. A single word can help you understand invasions, migrations, and popular culture throughout time. A single word can teach you things that school books never would.

Words are little symbols that can help us puzzle together a rational view of the inexplicable things that makes us human. Without the right story teller, however, at the end of the day, words are just that.

Here’s a key lesson that I’ve learned this past year: a story is greater than its string of individual words. The whole has always been greater than the sum of its parts.

Logos’ logo; the butterfly effect of reason

So to properly introduce my new endeavor, Logos Books, let’s start with a story.

Close your eyes and go back in time, to maybe mid-February 2020, pre-pandemic. Our story is set in a neighborhood bar, one of my old haunts on Division St., in Wicker Park, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.

Outside, the world is turning white. A flurry of snowflakes, no two alike, fall on late-comers, waiting in line outside of the bar. A giant black SUV, an Uber, pulls up to the curb, dirtying the fresh white carpet of snow.

You can’t see all of this from inside the bar, of course. The windows are frosted and cloudy. The heat, inside, is turned on high. Your coat, which had been hanging on the back of the bar stool, has fallen to the ground. You reach down to pick it up.

Minor characters mill about—a teetering 19-year old, trying to get past the security guard in front; the horny college girls hanging on the bar top, searching for a sense of belonging; the tired bartender with his eyes glued to the clock, yearning for 3am.

The main characters in this story are pictured above.

Paired Pathos, we’ll consider them to be intertwined as one character for purposes of this story, Cool Ethos, and Logical Logos are integral to any story. It’s fitting then, that they have leading roles in this one. Of course, there is another important character in today’s story—you.

You’re sitting alone at you favorite spot at the bar, a few stools away from the door, nursing a $13 hand-crafted cocktail. It’s happy hour. For the past five minutes, you’ve stared at the cup, pondering the perfectly spiraled lemon peel balancing on top of the golden liquid inside.

As if an answer to your dreams, Paired Pathos appears next to you; a giggling, shiny mirage.

You look at them and smile. Accepting your smile as an invitation, they begin to speak

“Let me tell you a story,” they say, in perfect, disturbing unison. They, then, begin to speak. Pathos’ goal? To convince you of something.

Pathos’ story might play at your heartstrings, invoke pity or outrage, or tickle your imagination. But whatever it is, it ignites a fire inside of you. It makes you feel something.

Still, you aren’t convinced. Your emotions can’t be explained. They are irrational. You make a deduction. Pathos must be irrational. They can’t be trusted.

You send Pathos away.

A few minutes later, Cool Ethos grabs the seat next to you at the bar. “Whiskey, on the rocks,” he tells the bar tender, with a million dollar grin.

You find yourself in a similar situation as the one before.

With Ethos, however, you start with a great sense of trust. You believe what he has to say from the get-go.

Ethos’ reputation proceeds him; his outside appearance matches the rumors. When Ethos begins to speak, you become even more impressed by how articulate he is.

But, as impressed as you are with Ethos’ street cred, you realize that his words are empty. You aren’t convinced.

You send Ethos away, too.

Finally, Logical Logos arrives. She begins to speak, in a clear, rational tone.

“I’m going to tell you a story, about an old man you may remember from math class or philosophy—Pythagoras of Samos.”

Pythagoras (Art by J. Augustus Knapp, circa 1926)

She continues, “…and yes, I’m talking about the same Pythagoras responsible for the Pythagorean theorem. Calculating the sides of a right triangle.

“Now, I must start with a warning.

“Do not believe everything I’m about to tell you. Some of it may be true, some might not. But always remember this: details are not what is important in a story.

“The story I’m about to tell you reads more like a riddle. It may seem silly, on the surface.

“The purpose of stories like these, however, are to help you understand some greater truths about yourself and the world around you. Anyways, let’s get to it.

“Pythagoras was an ancient philosopher, mathematician, educator, musician and astronomer. He was one of history’s main men of logic. His way of thinking lies at the foundation of the way modern humans, especially in Western cultures, think about the world.

“Pythagoras believed that “reality” is mathematical and that numbers have abstract, but significant, attributes that explain how our universe operates. Pythagoras is known for this quote, “all is number.”

“Keep in mind, Pythagoras lived long ago; a time when the world was largely thought of as flat and long before Boston Market began selling $3.14 pies on Pi Day… Every number was thought to be rational. Just like man.

“It was extremely important to Pythagoras that man is clear in his thinking. He was confident that reality was understandable to humans via reason. Through rationality, humans could find ultimate truth. Through rationality, humans could experience their optimal levels of well-being.

“Legend has it, Pythagoras was quite the clever philosopher. He never wrote his teachings down, but he went around telling people what he knew. He developed a group of followers. They called themselves the Pythagoreans.

“Pretty soon, however, a Pythagorean, named Hubble, made a horrible discovery.

“Hubble and some other Pythagoreans were sailing, out at sea, probably making idle chitchat about mathematics and the stars. Talk turned to the theorem.

“Hubble said, “You know, I’ve been thinking about Pythagoras’ theorem, late at night, while looking at the sky and I’ve identified something truly horrifying. When you take a look at the theorem backwards, you must take the square root of some numbers. Let’s use the number 2, for example. The square root of 2 is an incommensurable number. It isn’t whole. It isn’t rational. In fact, I’d say that the number that is computed is, in fact, irrational!”

“Excited murmurs flew about on the small boat. A consensus was reached. “You should tell Pythagoras about this!”

“The next week, Hubble took Pythagoras out to sea and told him his discovery. It was a sunny day and the water was blue. One the boat, was just the two of them.

Pythagoras quickly dispelled Hubble’s notion of irrationality. “Nonsense!” he cried.

“Then, according to legend, Hubble slipped off the boat and drowned.

“The End.”

As Logos finishes her story, despite the answers not being crystal clear, you realize that somewhere deep in your brain, her words are ones you already knew.

You decide to keep logos around.

Logos, pathos, and ethos have long been considered “the argument’s best friend.” Coined by Aristotle, these words describe three modes of persuasion that have been used to convince audiences across centuries.

For a more modern interpretation, I’d also argue that logos, pathos, and ethos explain how we story and interpret the world around us. A simple diagram is helpful here.

Logos + Pathos + Ethos = how we story and interpret life

Now of course, most of the time, we don’t use any one of these methods in isolation. We constantly integrate emotions, logic, and surface-level perceptions, consciously or subconsciously, into the very essence of who we are and the way we think. Logos, pathos, and ethos are woven in the golden threads that make up our view of reality.

Over time, however, the idea of logos became understood in a way juxtaposed from Aristotle’s original meaning. Now, logos is synonymous with the idea of rationality. Rationality has facts and evidence to back it up. Rationality can be physically proven.

But here’s the thing, rationality itself is inherently irrational. Thus, it is irrational to believe that our perception of reality is the ultimate truth.

Let’s bring your attention back to me for a second; I’ve had many interesting and life-changing professional experiences since graduating from Rush University with my Masters of Science.

One of those experiences was under the instruction of Holly Shapiro, Ph.D., a real-life linguistics queen.

She developed a revolutionary method of teaching kids (from as early as kindergarten, and even those with dyslexia) how to read, using a “whole language approach” to learning. She taught me to truly discover words. Holly believes if someone truly understands a word’s structure, parts, uses through time, and history, they won’t misuse it and will always be able to read it.

Her methods are revolutionary to me, as I become more mindful of the shortcomings of my own perception of reality. So much of my reality is made of the language, the words, around me; language we’re taught, language we perceive, language we understand, and language we don’t.

So, to learn more about the idea of logos, I turned to etymonline.com, an online etymology dictionary. Etymology the study of the origin of words and the way their meanings have changed throughout time.

History of the word, logos, from etymonline.com

The word logos came from Ancient Greece. It connotes the same ideas as “word, speech, statement, discourse, computation, account, and reason.” It comes from a word used by the Proto-Indo Europeans (PIE), leg-, which meant, “to collect or gather;” with derivatives meaning “to speak,” or “pick out words.”

I hear something, like the voice of Aristotle, whispering softly in my ear. “Tell stories.”

Logos is far more than just the ability to make private feelings public. Logos makes it possible for humans to do what no other animal can. Logos conveys truth and wisdom. Logos helps us puzzle together a factual, more true, understanding of reality.

Logos is reasoned discourse about the correct order of the world. It is the collective “why” behind a meaningful life. Logos is anchored in the unknown, yet mysteriously gives us words to express the beauty of the human experience.

Logos, according to Dr. Jordan Peterson of the University of Toronto, is the idea that will transcend all truth.

He believes that Western civilization will die without rebirth of the logos. And he gives quite a convincing, rational argument. If you think about it, even our economic theories are described as tragedies. Why wouldn’t the story of Western civilization end in a tragedy?

Still—what is to be, hasn’t happened yet. I believe we have the power to write our own stories and control our own destinies.

The word logos, and the importance of it’s fundamental meaning, needs to be reimagined for the 21st century and beyond. Logos can be a new way of thinking about the most fundamental questions of human nature and the universe.

2020 was a year characterized by polarization, division, fake news, and overwhelmingly, collective tragedy. Despite this, I believe our logos has remained, buried; simply lost in metaphor.

If you look hard enough, logos can be found in art, music, drama, literature and tragedy. Logos can be found in the works of Bach, Leonardo Da’ Vinci, Salvador Dali, and Taylor Swift.

If we have the power to write our own stories, I choose to write this one.

“The year was 2021. It was impossible to know at the time, as it inevitably is when one is zoomed in and focused on the details, but human kind was on the cusp of a Renaissance.

This new-fangled age of Enlightenment was one in which logos helped them understand, in an articulate manner, the purpose of human kind in this infinite, irrational universe. It was the year that humans discovered the way to move forward, is through harmony and love.

Plato once said, “all learning is, is remembering something you already know.”

Logos leads us, as individuals, to a harmonious state of being that is no longer rife with contradictions. I believe the answers to our ultimate truths lie somewhere around there, as well.

Welcome to Logos! From my journey, this is what I give you:

Reality is the ocean, our laws are the ship.

Many have never left the ship, jumped into the sea.

Jump in with me.

How do “social relationships” affect your health?

As Aristotle first noted, humans are social animals.  Social relationships are inherent, but not unique to the human species.  We are genetically designed to operate inside a framework of a group of familiar faces.  That does not mean, however, that individuals automatically love others they don’t know, just because they are humans.  We are picky about who we develop relationships with – relationships, outside of the family unit, come from the perfect recipe of similar interests, confidence, communication styles, and timing.

Certainly, both the quality and quantity of our social relationships have an affect on us. We have seen many real-world examples of how social isolation can lead to harrowing outcomes. Just look at the the bullied teenager who commits suicide, or prisoner of war who is psychologically tortured by use of social isolation. Social isolation of otherwise healthy, well-functioning individuals eventually results in psychological and physical decay, and possibly death.

In less extreme situations, our day-to-day social relationships still have a large effect on our mental health, health behavior, physical health, and risk of death. Studies show that social relationships, from childhood to adulthood, have short term and long term effects on wellness and can cause advantages or disadvantages in health. Over the past few decades, social scientists have demonstrated a clear link between social relationships and health in the general population. Adults who are more socially connected are healthier and live longer than their more isolated peers.

What exactly is a “social” or interpersonal relationship?

A social relationship is a broad term used to describe how we interact and behave with other people, and how they interact or behave with us. This can include friendships, romantic relationships, relationships with coworkers, or even just acquaintances!

Social scientists have studied several distinct features of social connection offered by relationships.

Social Isolation – the relative absence of social relationships

Social Integration – the overall level of involvement with informal social relationships, such as having a spouse, and with formal social relationships, such as those with religious institutions and volunteer organizations

Quality of Relationshipsincludes positive aspects of relationships, such as emotional support provided by significant others, and strained aspects of relationships, such as conflict and stress. 

Social Networks – the web of social relationships surrounding an individual, in particular, structural features, such as the type and strength of each social relationship. This is particularly interesting with the rise of social media.

How do social relationships benefit health?

Many types of scientific evidence show that involvement in social relationships benefits health in many ways. To name a few,

  • Individuals with the lowest level involvement in social relationships are more likely to die than those with greater involvement (and this holds true even when socioeconomic status, health behaviors, and other variables that may influence mortality are taken into account).
  • Social connection reduces mortality risk in adults with documented medical conditions (such as in this study, where they found that, among adults with coronary artery disease, the socially isolated had a risk of subsequent cardiac death 2.4 times greater than their more socially connected peers).
  • Low quantity or quality of social can lead to a variety of conditions, including development and progression of cardiovascular disease, recurrent myocardial infarction, atherosclerosis, autonomic dysregulation, high blood pressure, cancer and delayed cancer recovery, and slower wound healing.
  • Inadequate social relationship quality can lead to impaired immune function.

Once the clear link between social relationships and health was established, scientists and sociologists worked hard to figure out the why and the how. Basically, there are three broad ways that social ties work to influence health: behavioral, cognitive, and physical.

Behavioral Explanations

Good “health behaviors”, such as exercise, consuming nutritionally balanced diets, and adherence to medical regiment, tend to promote health and prevent illness. Poor “health behaviors”, such as smoking, excessive weight gain, drug abuse, and heavy alcohol consumption, tend to lead to poorer health outcomes.

Social ties can provide a sense of responsibility to engage in healthier behaviors – to protect their own health, as well as the health of others. Social ties provide information and create norms that further influence health habits. For example, if your roommate works out constantly, then you are more likely to hit the gym! Social relationships may influence health habits that in turn affect physical health and mortality. Being married, having children, and ties to religious organizations have all been linked to positive health behaviors

Of note: relationships can also have a cost… marriage and parenthood have also been associated with behaviors that are not beneficial to health – including physical inactivity and weight gain.

Psychosocial Explanations

Research shows that relationships impact your psyche – through social support, personal control, symbolic meanings and norms, and mental health. Relationships provide social support, and give people the sense that they are loved, listened to, and important. Healthy relationships may reduce blood pressure, lower heart rate, and lead to decreased stress hormones – leading to better health and less risky behaviors.

Relationships can also help provide a feeling of personal control, a feeling that you can control the outcome of your life through actions. Social connection may enhance that feeling of personal control, perhaps leading to better health habits, mental health, and physical health

There is also research to suggest that there is a symbolic meaning of particular social ties, and health habits explains why they are linked. For example, the symbolic meaning attached to marriage and your children may lead to a greater sense of responsibility to stay healthy, which promotes healthier lifestyles. Another example is young kids who start smoking or drinking. There is research that explains that the meaning attached to peer groups (aka being popular), explains the influence on alcohol, tobacco, and drug use with high school aged kids. We definitely also see this on social media and the internet – many groups have formed to promote health and well being. There’s also a huge market for lifestyle and fitness bloggers, who are almost selling the symbolic meaning of health and wellness. Fundamentally, greater social connection may lead to a sense of meaning and purpose in life, which, in turn, enhances mental health, physiological processes, and physical health.

Physiological Explanations

Quality social relationships can benefit immune, endocrine, and cardiovascular functions. It also can reduce the wear and tear on the body that stress causes. This effect on health happens throughout the entire lifespan. Emotionally supportive childhood environments promote healthy development of regulatory systems, including immune, metabolic, and autonomic nervous systems. Social support in adulthood reduces physiological responses such as cardiovascular reactivity to both anticipated and existing stressors. Also, adults in a healthy marriage experience a lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared with those who have experienced a marital loss – partly due to the psychosocial supports we talked to related to marriage.

Is there a “dark side” to social relationships?

While social relationships are the central source of emotional support for many people, social relationships can also have a cost.

Let’s take, for example, marriage. Marriage can be the most important source of support for many people, but it can also be a huge stressor… and it can get worse with age. Poor marriage quality has been associated with:

  • decreased immunity
  • more volatile hormones
  • depression
  • poorer physical health and fitness

Friendships are also important social relationships – but, they too can lead to stress, in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Stress in relationships contributes to

  • poor health habits (food consumption, heavy drinking, smoking, etc.) in order to cope with stress
  • increased psychological distress and physiological arousal (e.g., increased heart rate and blood pressure) that can lead to unhealthy behaviors
  • loss of sense of control, leading to difficulties with mental health
  • stress is associated with more alcohol consumption in young adulthood and greater weight gain in mid-life

Of course, strained relationships can affect health – but social ties may have other types of unintended negative effects on your health and well-being. Among other examples,

This “social contagion” of negative health behaviors can happen because of social norms, unsupportive social ties, or negative social environments. is social norms.

Having social relationships can also come with a sense of obligation. The obligation, for example, to serve as a caregiver for a sick or impaired spouse increases the risk of poor health outcomes for the caregiver and can even lead to death. Middle-aged adults, particularly women, often experience exceptionally high caregiving demands as they contend with the challenge of simultaneously rearing children, caring for spouses, and looking after aging parents. This will likely only continue to get worse, with a higher average age and fairly recent phenomenon of smaller family units.

What are the implications for you?

Research shows that social ties influence multiple and interrelated health outcomes, including health behaviors, mental health, physical health, and mortality risk. Anything that can strengthen and support your social ties has the potential to enhance the health of others connected to you – your friends, followers, family, spouses, or children.

Poor mental, physical health, and unhealthy behaviors can wreck a huge toll on you, your families, and society as a whole. This is because social ties affect mental health, physical health, health behaviors, and mortality risk. We can use this knowledge, though, to improve the health of everyone around us. Social ties are a potential resource that can be harnessed to promote population health. They can benefit health beyond target individuals by influencing the health of others throughout social networks. Social connection has both immediate (mental health, health behaviors) and long-term effects on health (e.g., physical health, mortality).

What can you do to improve the social connections, and health, of you and your loved ones?

You can contribute by being a good partner in your relationships. Effective communication is, obviously, crucial in factor in that pursuit. Educating your family and friends about the potential health effects of different social ties – the good and the bad! – can also be important. Remember, knowledge is power! If you notice that a loved one (this can be a friend, parent, or elderly family member) is at risk of social isolation, reach out for resources to help them. It is also important to prevent and alleviate negative features of social ties, both with yourself and with others. If you notice your significant other gaining weight, encourage them to reinstall healthy habits and be careful to not fall into unhealthy habits. You can work to reduce strains for those who provide care to sick family members by providing them a home-cooked meal.

Solid scientific evidence shows that social relationships affect a range of health outcomes, including mental health, physical health, health habits, and mortality risk. Do what you can to ensure your social relationships stay healthy!

Umberson D, Montez JK. Social relationships and health: a flashpoint for health policy. J Health Soc Behav. 2010;51 Suppl(Suppl):S54–S66. doi:10.1177/0022146510383501