Please provide an analysis of academic research over past five years that looks at the key themes and explanations of the findings around how in-person gatherings with strangers (not just friend and family) through events like festivals, conferences, etc. informs our psychological and societal well being.
Although researchers do not fully understand the mechanism behind the psychological and mental health benefits of attending events and concerts, some researchers have found that attendance at events and in-person gatherings improves endocrine activity, while reducing levels of stress hormones. Below you will find more details about our findings.
A recent study found that regular face-to-face interactions are beneficial to mental health, especially among older adults. Researchers found that individuals with limited face-to-face interactions have almost double the risk of developing depression, while face-to-face interactions can reduce the risk of depression. Participants in the study who met family and friends frequently were less likely to report symptoms of depression compared to those who spoke on the phone, emailed, or relied on social media for social interactions.
Participants who had in-person interactions with friends and family at least three times per week reported the lowest level (6.5%) of symptoms associated with depression two years later, while those participants who met with family and friends only once every few months (or less) reported the highest level of depressive symptoms (11.5%). The study also found that the benefits of in-person contact with family and friend is more significant for adults over 70 years of age, assessing 11,000 American adults and adjusting for pre-existing levels of depression, health status, and distance from family.
Relationships INCREASE HAPPINESS AND LIFE
The existence of research documenting the benefits of close, supportive relationships is extensive. The Harvard Women’s Health Watch reports that “dozens of studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends, and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer.”
Another study of 7,000 individuals found that “people who were disconnected from others were roughly three times more likely to die during the nine-year study than people with strong social ties.” The study also noted that people who have healthy relationships with family and friends but live unhealthy lifestyles (such as smoking, obesity, lack of exercise) lived longer than those with healthy lifestyles, but who lacked social connections with family and friends.
Researchers also found that those participants lacking regular social interaction have increased level of stress and inflammation, which can negatively affect the entire body, including the brain. It is believed that the emotional support provided by regular social contact helps reduce the negative effect of stress and provides “a sense of meaning and purpose in life."
BENEFITS OF SOCIAL EVENTS
A study in the United Kingdom produced similar conclusions regarding the impact of regular social interaction, as previously discussed. People with fewer social connections were found to be more prone to mental illness. The benefits of increased social interactions are also observed in people who participate in group events such as churches, voluntary organizations, and clubs.
A study of a mass gathering event in India also found positive benefits of these social events on overall well-being. The researchers "studied one of the world's largest collective events – a demanding month-long Hindu religious festival in North India. Participants (comprising 416 pilgrims who attended the gathering for the whole month of its duration, and 127 controls who did not) completed measures of self-assessed well-being and symptoms of ill-health at two time points." Data collected from the study showed that "those participating in this collective event reported a longitudinal increase in well-being relative to those who did not participate." Researchers studying the underlying mechanism of such benefits found "preliminary evidence that attending a cultural event can have an impact on endocrine activity and down-regulate stress."
Another study on the benefits of attending a music concert found that "attendance can create a sense of community, bringing groups together beyond the mere aggregate of people; a sense of common purpose and connection can emerge." Although the positive effect of attending music festivals on mental well-being is well documented, researchers are not yet certain about the underlying mechanism that inspires such benefits. However, researchers suggest that "the interplay of various factors is important; the music festival is unique in its combination of social experience, familiarity, and novelty in artists and environments." Other researchers speculate that the reason attending music events improves well-being is that attendance "inspires a feeling of creativity, contributing to a person’s feeling of having a purpose in life." In participants attending a live music concert, it was found that "music could help reduce people's levels of stress hormones, including the steroid cortisol." According to the researchers, "what was really interesting is that it didn't seem to matter how musical the volunteers were, or what their background was - the concert appeared to have a pretty similar effect on everyone."
A similar study evaluating the effects of live concerts on well-being was conducted in Australia. The Australian researchers found that “people who actively engaged with music through dancing and attending events like concerts and musicals reported a higher level of subjective well-being.” However, people who simply consumed recorded music did not report the same benefits. It was concluded that listening to music by oneself “may improve physical health and emotional well-being,” but listening “in the company of others is associated with stronger positive experiences.”
The benefits of attending social events may also be due to the fact that it allows people to interact with strangers. Some studies have also found that interacting with strangers may have positive effects on the brain. In addition, it can also help boost mood.
To wrap up, there is evidence showing that regularly attending events and socializing can boost mental health, relieve stress, and reduce inflammation. Furthermore, there is also evidence that regular social activity increases endocrine activity, while down-regulating levels of stress hormones, including cortisol.