If you feel closely connected to your work cronies, you’re likely the healthier for it—and this applies to both physical and mental health. A meta-analysis in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review reports that people who feel more camaraderie with their colleagues, and more connection to the company itself, have better health and happiness and are less likely to burn out. Given all the past work on how important our social relationships are for all aspects of health, the results aren’t too surprising, but it’s nice to have this kind of confirmation from such a large study.
The new analysis looked at 58 past studies that included 19,000 people in 15 countries. The participants worked in all different fields–health, sales, the military. The participants had answered questions about their work life, and their feelings about their colleagues and companies, and various aspects of their mental and physical health.
People who identified more strongly with their colleagues at work and with their organizations had greater psychological well-being, and also better physical health.
“We are less burnt out and have greater well-being when our team and our organization provide us with a sense of belonging and community—when it gives us a sense of ‘we-ness,’” said study author Niklas Steffens in a news release.
And this “we-ness” is important. This comes from social identity theory, which, as the authors write, “starts from the assertion that people are able to think, feel and act not just as individuals (i.e., in terms of a personal identity as ‘I’) but also as group members (in terms of a social identity as ‘we’).” The theory also suggests that when we see ourselves as part of a group, we’re more likely to see the world from the perspective/s of our fellow group members, and more open to be influenced by them, and to trust and to work together with them.
Feeling this we-ness, or being part of an in-group, is linked to health and well-being in a bunch of ways. The authors suggest that it increases a person’s sense of belonging, meaning and purpose, and one’s feeling of control and agency, among other things. These factors intuitively go hand-in-hand with health, but they’ve all been linked to health in previous studies.