New research finds that celebrations of outstanding achievements can improve perceptions of social support.
Positively acknowledging positive life events and accomplishments while gathering to eat and drink can increase feelings of social support, new research suggests.
The study was published in Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, found that celebrations involving social gatherings, eating and drinking, and intentional recognition of positive life events can increase perceived social support. Previous research has shown that perceived social support, or the belief that a person has a network of people who care about them and can offer help and support, is associated with improved health and well-being outcomes, such as longer life and reduced anxiety and depression.
“Many celebrations at this time of year involve two of three situations—getting together to eat and drink,” said study co-author Kelly Gulowwhite, an assistant professor at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. “Adding a third condition, Making a conscious effort to acknowledge the positive accomplishments of others is key. For example, taking the time to congratulate someone who was accepted to their first choice college, or a work project that went well, or a new job opportunity. This will maximize Improve your well-being and the well-being of all attendees of this holiday party.”
Wight and her co-authors, including Professor 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.
Research shows that even if the party is virtual, if everyone has food and drink (whether healthy or indulgent) and they are celebrating a positive event, which increases a person’s sense of social support, they can reap the same benefits -benefit from.
It also has implications for marketing managers or anyone looking to raise money for a good cause.
“We found that when people felt social support after a celebration, they were more ‘pro-social’ and more willing to contribute their time or Cause donations.” and co-authors of the study. “This would be a great time for a nonprofit to start a giving drive because many people are celebrating positive life events, like holidays or graduations.”
The researchers noted that hosting celebrations to increase perceived social support could be especially beneficial in settings that serve populations who are more likely to feel lonely and isolated, such as nursing homes or community centers.
They also note that understanding the well-being benefits of celebrations is important for policymakers seeking to implement regulations or measures that could affect social gatherings, such as COVID lockdowns, to avoid negative mental health impacts. They suggest that if organizers need to host a virtual celebration, they should engage in some kind of consumption and mark a separate, positive life event so people leave the celebration feeling socially supported.
Reference: “Celebrating Good Times: How Celebration Can Increase Social Support,” by Danielle J. Brick, Kelley Gullo Wight, James R. Bettman, Tanya L. Chartrand, and Gavan J. Fitzsimons, December 1, 2022, Journal of Public Policy and Marketing.