The CDC recently released some information on the importance of social connection, which probably isn’t really news to most of us, but now we have specific information on the way loneliness affects us.
The pandemic heightened an already increasing sense of isolation, since we had to isolate ourselves for a period of time. The numbers show:
- Loneliness and social isolation cause a respective 26% and 29% increase of premature death, and is comparative to the risk posed by smoking 15 cigarettes a day
- Someone with poor social connections is at a 29% increase for heart disease
- Poor social connection creates s 32% increase for strokes
- Loneliness is also associated with increased risk for dementia, anxiety and depression
So what do they mean by “social connection”? The CDC describes it as 3 main categories:
Structure: the # of relationships you have, the variety of relationships (family, coworkers, friend etc) and the frequency with which you interact
Function: how much you can rely on these people for various needs
Quality: the degree to which these relationships are satisfying, helpful and positive
The amount of social connection needed varies some, depending on phase of life, where you fall in terms of introvert/extrovert etc so there’s no magic number of friends that disease-proofs you. But think about your relationships and your general level of closeness, warmth and sense of mutual support within these relationships.
Some groups are more impacted than others, with studies showing that those most at risk have poor physical or mental health, disabilities, financial insecurity, single parents, people who live alone, and younger and older populations. Social infrastructure is another factor – things like quality of public transportation, access to public services like libraries, technology etc.
Often it feels more challenging to make friends as an adult, and adult friendships often form through work relationships or hobbies. You could ask yourself if there are acquaintances in your life that you would be interested in deepening. Just like other good relationships, friendship requires some shared interested/values, good communication and time spent together to form a deeper bond. You could also follow your hobbies – if you like to write, see about local writing groups/classes. Joining something that meets regularly increases your chances of creating connection. There are even apps for finding friends (think like online dating but without the ick factor, at least hopefully!) This is a relatively fun (at least more fun than eating broccoli or getting your teeth cleaned) way to improve your quality of life and your health. Future you will thank you!
The Evolution Group Incorporated is a private counseling firm that has built its practice around the core values of integrity, authenticity, safety and honoring individuality. We work with individuals, couples and families to empower the wholeness that already lies within them
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