We are designed to seek out connections with other people and to bond together into tribes or communities. In ancient history, a human alone was a human who was vulnerable. Being part of a group provided safety and improved the odds of survival. Social wellness is a part of our nature.
These evolutionary forces are still part of our makeup today. While most of us no longer need a tribe of people to help us fight off predators or hunt food, our need for connection with a social group has not diminished. It’s critical to our mental health.
What Happens When We Disconnect?
Past research (of highly questionable ethics) showed that infants not given sufficient interaction with others failed to thrive. (1) More recently, evidence is mounting that there is an “epidemic of loneliness” occurring, not only in the US but around the world. Technology, while allowing for a broader social reach, has the dark side of making it easy to disconnect from deep, meaningful relationships.
A lack of social connection is associated with a multitude of health risks. Heart disease, stroke, anxiety, and depression are just a few of the health concerns that can result from social isolation. (2)
Loneliness may even be as bad for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. (3)
Loneliness may even be as bad for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
We Can’t Be Well Without Other People. Social Wellness Matters.
Feeling connected and cared for by a strong social structure and having the satisfaction of contributing to your community is essential to well-being.
We likely all know the deep fulfillment we experience through a close meaningful relationship with a partner or loved one. Few things can negatively impact our sense of well-being as quickly as conflict with someone we love. Above all, stable connections with our families and close friends provide the solid foundation we need to find satisfaction in every area of our lives.
In truth, people who have strong relationships enjoy a host of health benefits including decreased stress, a healthier immune system, and improved digestive health. (4) Similarly, close connection with others also builds compassion, develops empathy, and makes us better people.
Other People Can’t Be Well Without Us
In addition to deep relationships with those closest to us, we also require a broader connection to our community. Like it or not, we are inextricably linked to the people around us. As a result, our actions can impact our communities for good or ill.
For example, giving and investing in our communities makes us happier and boosts our feelings of gratitude. (5) But, perhaps even more important, it improves the health of those around us. In this case, when we care for others and invest in our communities, we are supporting the wellness of everyone.
We Need Other People
They in turn need us. As a result, the more we prioritize these connections, the healthier and happier we become. Thus, we will have the satisfaction of seeing our own wellness reflected in our loved ones, community, and world.