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Introduction and Aim Greater social integration (active engagement in personal relationships and social activities) is linked to better mental health.

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Presentation on theme: "Introduction and Aim Greater social integration (active engagement in personal relationships and social activities) is linked to better mental health."— Presentation transcript:

1 Introduction and Aim Greater social integration (active engagement in personal relationships and social activities) is linked to better mental health. However, researchers tend to measure social integration by asking participants about their social contact (e.g., how often they see other members of their group). This neglects the fact that we do not just talk to other group members: we also establish psychological links with the group and its members. Group identification describes our sense of belonging to the group and of commonality with other ingroup members. Research has shown that strong group identification promotes a sense of meaning and perceived social support. Such outcomes are likely to be beneficial for mental health. These observations suggest that group identification should be associated with better mental health, and a growing body of literature supports this theory. However, it is important to examine the separate effects of group identification and social contact on mental health, to discover the extent to which the effects of group identification are independent from the effects of social contact. We wish to show that group identification is not simply a by- product of social contact, and that it plays an important role in affecting mental health in its own right. Study 1- The Family To explore this issue, we started with a study assessing the unique effects of both contact with members of the family group and family identification on mental health. 194 Polish people (85 males) completed a questionnaire. We measured their family identification and their social contact with family members (how many family members they saw/spoke to at least once every two weeks). We also assessed how depressed and how stressed the participants were, and measured their satisfaction with life. Finally, we asked participants to tell us their age and level of education. Results Family identification and social contact were found to correlate with each other, but only modestly. In order to examine the extent to which the different measures predicted participants’ mental health, we performed regression analyses. This revealed that the extent of participants’ family identification predicted the extent of their depression, stress and satisfaction with life. High levels of identification were found to reduce depression and stress and to increase satisfaction with life. The extent of participants’ social contact with family members only predicted the extent of their satisfaction with life, with high levels of social contact increasing satisfaction with life. The extent of participants’ group identification combined with the extent of their social contact predicted the extent of their depression, stress and satisfaction with life, even after age and education were controlled for. Discussion Across two social groups we found that measures of group identification and traditional measures of social integration based on social contact were only modestly related, and that group identification was better than social contact at predicting mental health. These findings imply that the effects of group identification on mental health cannot be explained by social contact: group identification has important effects on mental health in its own right. In comparison, social contact appears to have relatively modest unique effects on mental health. This may be (partly) explained by the fact that some instances of social contact can be mentally harmful (e.g., contact which leads to feelings of being judged and a lack of acceptance). Our findings suggest that it would be wrong to assume that active participation in group activities will automatically improve people’s health: the contact must contribute to enhancing group identification. Comparing Social Contact and Group Identification as Predictors of Mental Health Study 2- The Army Unit Study 1 suggests that family identification is more beneficial to health that mere contact with family members. To show that these findings are not only applicable to the family group, we replicated the study using an army unit: a type of group that places great importance on contact between group members. 150 members of an army unity from an Eastern European country (102 males) completed a questionnaire. We measured their army identification and their social contact with army members (how many army members they saw/spoke to each day and the number of army social events they attended in an average month). We also assessed how depressed the participants were, and measured their job satisfaction and satisfaction with life. Finally, we asked participants to tell us their age and army rank. Results Army identification and social contact were found to correlate with each other, but only modestly. Regression analyses revealed that participants’ army identification predicted the extent of their depression, job satisfaction and satisfaction with life. High levels of identification were found to reduce depression and to increase job satisfaction and satisfaction with life. The extent of participants’ social contact with army members only predicted the extent of their job satisfaction, with high levels of social contact increasing job satisfaction. The extent of participants’ group identification combined with the extent of their social contact predicted the extent of their satisfaction with life and job satisfaction, even after age and army rank were controlled for. Fabio Sani a, Marina Herrera b, Juliet R. H. Wakefield a, Olga Boroch a, & Csilla Gulyas a a School of Psychology, University of Dundee, Dundee, UK. Published in: British Journal of Social Psychology, b Department of Psychology, University of Valencia, Spain. For More Information: Prof. Fabio Sani:


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