Social group membership and its social-relational corollaries, for example, social contact, trust, and support, are prophylactic for health. Research has tended to focus on how direct social interactions between members of small-scale groups (i.e., a local sports team or community group) are conducive to positive health outcomes. The current study provides evidence from a longitudinal cross-cultural sample (N = 6,748; 18 countries/societies) that the prophylactic effect of group membership is not isolated to small-scale groups, and that members of groups do not have to directly interact, or in fact know of each other to benefit from membership. Our longitudinal analyses suggest that national identification (strength of association with the country/society of which one is a citizen) predicts lower anxiety and improved health; national identification was in fact almost as positively predictive of health status as anxiety was negatively predictive. The findings indicate that identification with large-scale groups, like small-scale groups, is palliative, and are discussed in terms of globalization and banal nationalism.
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