There is a well-known quote: “No man is an island.”
While John Donne might have uttered those words more than 400 years ago, the idea behind them – that our connection to other people is important for our survival – remains as true as ever.
And turns out that there are very real physical and psychological benefits to building strong social connections, even in the modern era of digital connectivity.
Here are just a few of them.
The Heart Foundation cites research noting that strong social connections can make a big difference to people’s mental health.
There is evidence that having solid networks not only lowers a person’s level of anxiety and depression, but can give them stronger self-esteem. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States shows that people who are connected, with stable relationships, are better able to make good choices and cope with hard times.
New Zealand psychologists Umbrella Wellbeing cited a 2020 study from Massachusetts General Hospital that found that the greatest determinant of depression was the frequency of which people were confiding in others, as well as visiting family and friends.
It’s not just mental health that benefits from a good circle of friends.
People who are lonely have been found to have a 27% increased risk of heart disease. Psychology Today notes research from Steve Cole showing genes affected by social connection also code for immune function and inflammation, which may help people recover from disease faster.
“Social connectedness, therefore, generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being.”
Lisa Berkman, a researcher at Harvard University, agreed social isolation could weaken people’s immune systems and make them more susceptible to disease. Social connections also tended to lead to better behaviours, such as eating more healthy food and being physically active, she said. Berkman said that could be because people who ate with others were less likely to turn to comfort food as regularly.
Social connection could also help you live longer.
A review of 148 studies showed that people who lacked social connections had a 50% higher chance of dying early than people who were more connected. “There have been a couple of comparisons that social isolation has a risk of mortality that’s about the same as the other major risk factors?that we think about, so smoking, for instance, is on a par with that,”?Berkman said.
What can we do to boost our connections?
Umbrella’s researchers offer a few tips, including making sure that you reach out to people you care about on a regular basis. They recommend contacting someone at least once a week. They also suggest interacting with strangers – including striking up conversation with people you meet in the street or as part of your day-to-day life.
Like to talk?
Social connections may be great for your health, but having insurance can offer great peace-of-mind, too. It’s time to check whether you have enough insurance cover, or to consider some new protection, get in touch with us. We can help you understand what’s available and what could work for you and your family.
Disclaimer: Please note that the content provided in this article is intended as an overview and as general information only. While care is taken to ensure accuracy and reliability, the information provided is subject to continuous change and may not reflect current developments or address your situation. Before making any decisions based on the information provided in this article, please use your discretion and seek independent guidance.