Recent research published in the Plos Medical Journal suggests that strong social ties are not only associated with better health and longevity, but that a low social life can actually be a risk factor.
Studies concluded that having few friends or weak social ties to the community is just as harmful to health as being an alcoholic or smoking nearly a pack of cigarettes a day. Weak social ties are more harmful than not exercising and twice as risky as being obese.
This is good news for those of us who have chosen Panama as a place to retire or do business. Here in the Pacific beach communities of Coronado and surrounding areas, there is no shortage of social events. Just check the calendar at Playacommunity to find out when the Mahjong group is meeting next. Read the discussion forum to find a tennis partner, or contact the local Life Coach, Karyn Saunders, to learn how to run and join a group of new runners training for a marathon.
New expats moving to Panama are largely concerned with is making new friends and carrying on social and recreational activities as they did back home. Whether it is the weekly poker game, morning tennis or belonging to a photography club, we all want to be connected to the things we enjoy doing and finding people with similar interests. Being a part of a social circle plays a big role in bonding a person to a community - or a new country.
Here in Panama, some expats prefer to stay away from expat groups, because they often tend to get stuck on Panamanian bashing. On the other hand, having the permission to voice frustrations in a safe environment can help combat the feeling of isolation one feels in moving to a new country. Through community, a person quickly learns that their own negative experience is not unique. There are others dealing with the same things. The sharing of stories can provide strategies for how to get through difficult situations.
On the whole, Panama's beach communities come with a ready-made and healthy expat community, which supports various groups and interests. Here in Coronado alone, there are groups for golf, tennis, diving, poker, running, to name a few. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, associate professor of psychology at Brigham Young, one of the people responsible for the new study says, "Our relationships encourage us to eat healthy, get exercise, get more sleep, see a doctor''. When taken from the perspective of moving to a new country, connecting with people from familiar backgrounds also supports getting integrated into a new culture.
So, if you are new to Panama's Beach communities, and are looking for people of similar interests, a good place to start meeting people is at the monthly Playacommunity Mixer , where Expats from the beach neighborhoods gather to meet, catch up, make new friends and have a casual evening together. Not only is the event useful for networking, but now studies tell us, it is healthy for you too!