BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — A great party – when the time is right – can benefit health and well-being, according to researchers from Indiana University. Their study found that making an intentional effort to celebrate positive life events and achievements while gathering for food and drink often leads to feeling more socially supported.
Study authors explain celebrations with three conditions: social gathering, eating or drinking, and intentionally recognizing a positive life event will foster increased perceived social support.
Perceived social support is the belief you have a social network that will be there for you when negative life events happen. Researchers say such a belief has a connection to improved health and well-being outcomes, including increased lifespan and less anxiety and depression.
“Many celebrations this time of year include two of the three conditions – eating and drinking while gathering together,” says study co-author Kelley Gullo Wight, an assistant professor at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, in a university release. “Adding the third condition, making an intentional effort to recognize other’s positive achievements, is key. For example, take the time to congratulate someone for getting accepted to their first-choice university, or a work project that went well, or a new job offer. This will maximize the benefits to your well-being and the well-being of all the attendees at that holiday party.”
Parties still need to take place — even during lockdowns
Prof. Wight and co-authors, professors Danielle Brick of the University of Connecticut, and James Bettman, Tanya Chartrand, and Gavan Fitzsimons of Duke University, utilized behavioral experiments to survey thousands of people over the course of several years.
Notably, researchers add that even if a gathering is virtual, if everyone has food and drink (no matter if it’s healthy or indulgent) and they’re celebrating positive events, this can also increase perceived social support, along with all of the benefits that come with it.
These findings may also prove helpful for marketing managers, or anyone else looking to raise funds for a good cause.
“We found that when people feel supported socially after a celebration, they’re more ‘pro-social,’ and more willing to volunteer their time or donate to a cause,” adds co-author Danielle Brick, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Connecticut. “This would be a good time for non-profits to market donation campaigns, around the time many people are celebrating positive life events, like holidays or graduations.”
Celebrations at places serving populations more at-risk of loneliness and isolation, such as nursing homes, can be particularly beneficial.
Study authors also add that it’s vital for policymakers looking to implement regulations or measures that could impact social gatherings, like COVID lockdowns, to understand the benefits of celebrations. They recommend that if organizers need to have virtual celebrations, food and drink should still play a role, as well as the marking of a separate, positive life event. This will help ensure people leave the celebration feeling socially supported.
The study is published in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing.