Going the distance

Social support can give you a leg up

By Edward T. Creagan, M.D. February 8, 2011

It's well known in the sports world that home teams do better than visiting teams over the course of a season. All sorts of explanations have been put forward for this phenomenon — the length of the grass, the consistency of the dirt on the field and the players knowing the direction of the wind. None of these hypotheses, however, have withstood the scrutiny of statistical analysis. So why does the hometown team more often win?

The most significant factor in my book is the crowd. Consider this: The louder the venue, the larger the crowd and the closer the crowd is to the field, the more likely that marginal calls and judgment decisions will favor the hometown team. This isn't meant to disparage referees. It's simply a fact that all humans are influenced by social factors.

I've also seen social support make a difference when people are fighting a serious illness. Recently I visited two elderly women with the same condition. One woman was a widow with no family who lived in an apartment in a small Minnesota city. The other woman was surrounded by three loving daughters and two adult grandsons who lived within several blocks of her in a large southern city. The proposed treatment for each woman is potentially toxic and has serious side effects. It's easy to predict which woman is likely to do better with the treatment — the one with the social support.

So the lesson is clear. To survive and thrive, you need people in your life to support and encourage you. Consider that an inside tip from me to you.


Edward T. Creagan, M.D.

Follow on Twitter: @EdwardCreagan

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Feb. 08, 2011