The Power Of The Tribe

How Community Boosts Immunity And Helps Us Live Longer, Healthier Lives


is a Growing Bolder mantra simply because we know how important it is. We’re social animals who are hardwired to engage with others. It’s in our DNA. Multiple studies show that social relationships have a profound influence on mental and physical health, mortality risk, and longevity.

There are the obvious things, such as people that feel isolated are more depressed, and they don’t sleep as well. The ripple goes from there, according to Florida Blue Medicare chief medical officer Paul Kaplan. “The higher executive functioning of your brain, being able to solve problems, complex issues, that ability goes down, your cognitive behavior declines. Your cardiac function, your ability of your heart and your blood vessels to do what they have to do and do it in a healthy way actually gets worse.”

A study by the American Cancer Society, published in 2019 looked at 580,000 people. They asked them, ‘Are you happy? Are you socially isolated? Or do you feel you’ve got a very good support system?’ The discovery was the socially isolated people had a higher rate of early death from any cause — it did not have to be only from cancer. You could die earlier from anything if you were socially isolated. Additional studies dive even deeper.

“The example that I find the most fascinating looks at the unique cellular level within your body,” Dr. Kaplan said. “There was a study published in 2015 by a Dr. Cole and he looked at the white blood cells, the leukocytes and these are the cells in your body that fight infection, and he looked at the gene expression within those cells.

“He had two groups, socially isolated and people who feel that they are completely happy and have the social support they need. In the isolated group, the gene expression within those leukocytes or white blood cells favored increase in inflammation and a reduction in the viral fighting capacity of those white blood cells. So, even at a cellular level in the body, especially now with COVID, we’re setting ourselves up to be at risk of more infections, more inflammation and our ability to fight the virus is diminished.”

It’s clear that social connections are not only good for our mentality, they are essential for our physical health. It’s important to pick our friends wisely because health-related attitudes — positive and negative — spread rapidly throughout social networks. Active, healthy, happy friends are the vaccine against sickness, depression and cognitive decline. Community is immunity.

Open Enrollment for Medicare is Oct. 15 – Dec. 7, 2022. As the leaves gradually change and the temperatures begin to drop, the change of seasons remind us that the year is winding up. It’s a good time to evaluate how you can finish 2022 on a high note, and to start thinking about your Medicare plan for 2023.

Have your circumstances or your health changed this year? What might those changes mean for your health coverage in 2023? Visit to get 10 Medicare tips to help you navigate the Annual Election Period which runs from Oct 15 to Dec 7, including learning how to evaluate your current plan, understand how your current plan may change and analyze your out-of- pocket spending to see if you have the right plan for your budget.

This article is featured in the October 2022 issue of The Growing Bolder Digital Digest.

This post was created in partnership with Florida Blue Medicare. Florida Blue and Florida Blue Medicare are Independent Licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. We comply with applicable Federal civil rights laws and do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex. For more information visit © 2022 Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, Inc., DBA Florida Blue. All rights reserved.

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