The Importance of Social Connection
There’s a lot of hype right now around the health impact of social connections and happiness, but we often don’t connect our social life with our well-being. The fact is, a lack of social connection has a greater overall health risk than smoking! Being lonely impacts our immune systems, anxiety levels, and risk of depression and a total of 148 studies have found people with strong social relationships have a 50% lower risk of mortality.
Social connections are the relationships you have with the people around you. These people may be friends, family members, colleagues, or neighbors. Being social enables you to interact with these people and relate to them in a positive manner. Having strong social connections can have the following positive impacts in your life:
- Prevent loneliness. Loneliness is often mistaken for depression; so instead of connecting with others, we may take medication. Strong social connections make you less lonely.
- Improve the environment. Environmentalist Bill McKibben states that we won’t have sustainability without community. When we see people as a main source of security and entertainment, we will stop turning to “things.”
- Greater happiness. Not only does happiness increase when we have social connections, but we gain trust in others.
- Higher immune function. This may seem silly, but if we aren’t exposed to germs our bodies won’t know how to fight them. The more we interact with our fellow humans, the better our immune systems will function.
- Earlier treatment of disease. A study found that adults in neighborhoods with high levels of socialization were 10% to 22% more likely to get screened for diseases at recommended ages.
- Better cognitive function. Cognitive function has been proven to increase when people have frequent social contact.
If you consider yourself a social butterfly, you probably aren’t shocked by the findings above, and you likely feel less lonely in your overall life. If you prefer to spend more time by yourself, think about strengthening the social connections you value. Remember, social connections are relatively easy to cultivate, especially in today’s tech-filled world. Social media makes it easier to make friends and stay connected with them wherever they are.
Take time out of your busy life to reconnect with friends, family, and your community for a healthy pick-me-up!