Researchers from Concordia University found that immigrants who were able to form friendships and get involved in new social networks during their first five months in Canada had increases in heart rate variability.
While those who remained socially isolated over time showed a decrease. In the weeks and months that follow a major move, people often find it hard to make new friends and establish a solid social network.
"The study shows that such prolonged social isolation can have a negative effect on physical health. That applies not just to international students but to anyone moving to a new country or city or anyone experiencing major social changes," explained Jean-Philip pe Gouin, a Concordia psychology professor.
He tracked a group of international students who experienced major social change following a move to Montreal. The results showed that those who managed to build a better support network were healthier overall.
Other research has shown that individuals with a lower heart rate variability are at increased risk of poor health, including greater risk of cardiac diseases. The message is clear: Reach out to other people.
"The more quickly you manage to integrate socially in your new home, the healthier you will be. It is easier said than done, but it is worth it," Gouin concluded. The study was published in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine.