Celebrations and social gatherings can benefit our health and well-being. Celebrations are frequently centered on cultural or community traditions. Participating in these celebrations can help to preserve and promote cultural heritage while also strengthening community bonds. According to new research, making an intentional effort to recognize positive life events and achievements while gathering for food and drink will leave you feeling more socially supported.
The study, which was published online in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, discovered that celebrations with three conditions – social gathering, eating or drinking, and intentionally commemorating a positive life event – increase perceived social support. Perceived social support, according to previous research, is the belief you have a social network that will be there for you in case of future, negative life events. That belief is associated with health and well-being outcomes, including increased lifespan and decreased anxiety and depression.
“Many celebrations this time of year include two of the three conditions – eating and drinking while gathering together,” said Kelley Gullo Wight, assistant professor at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and study co-author. “It is critical to include the third condition, making an intentional effort to recognize others’ positive accomplishments. For example, take the time to congratulate someone on being accepted to their first-choice university, a successful work project, or a new job offer. This will maximize the benefits to your health and the health of everyone else at the holiday party.”
We found that when people feel socially supported after a celebration, they’re more ‘pro-social,’ and more willing to volunteer their time or donate to a cause. At a time when many people are celebrating positive life events, such as holidays or graduations, this would be a good time for non-profits to market donation campaigns.Danielle Brick
Wight and her co-authors, including professors Danielle Brick of the University of Connecticut, and James Bettman, Tanya Chartrand, and Gavan Fitzsimons of Duke University, used behavioral experiments to survey thousands of participants over several years.
The research revealed that even if gatherings are virtual, if everyone has food and drink (no matter if it’s healthy or indulgent) and they’re celebrating positive events, this also increases a person’s perceived social support, and they can receive the same well-being benefits from it.
It also has implications for marketing managers or anyone looking to raise funds for a good cause.
“We found that when people feel socially supported after a celebration, they’re more ‘pro-social,’ and more willing to volunteer their time or donate to a cause,” said Danielle Brick, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Connecticut and study co-author. “At a time when many people are celebrating positive life events, such as holidays or graduations, this would be a good time for non-profits to market donation campaigns.”
According to the researchers, hosting celebrations that increase perceived social support can be especially beneficial in places that serve populations that are more vulnerable to loneliness and isolation, such as nursing homes or community centers.
They also emphasize the importance of understanding the well-being benefits of celebrations for policymakers looking to implement regulations or measures that may impact social gatherings, such as COVID lockdowns, to avoid negative mental health consequences. They advise that if organizers must hold virtual celebrations, they should include some form of consumption as well as the commemoration of a separate, positive life event, so that people leave the celebration feeling socially supported.