Social Isolation Can Be Hazardous to Your Health
Author: Lane Keating
There are many aspects to being healthy - eating a balanced diet, exercising on a regular basis, engaging in safe behaviors (wearing your seatbelt, not drinking and driving, etc.), visiting your doctor for annual checkups, getting plenty of rest, etc. But have you ever considered the health value in being socially engaged?
Research has shown that no matter the form, there are benefits to engaging with others. To begin with, it can be fun! People who have meaningful relationships are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer than those who don’t. In fact, data from over 300,000 people who were studied for an average of seven and one-half years show that those who have satisfying social relationships have a 50% greater chance of survival than those who don’t.
Some researchers think that social engagement may work deep within the body and affect how it performs. They tell us that being socially engaged relieves harmful levels of stress that can have a negative effect on coronary arteries, insulin levels, and the immune system. Other studies indicate that socialization may result in lower levels of a chemical in the body that affects age-related illness such as Alzheimer’s and heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and some forms of cancer.
So, how do you go about improving your social connectedness? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Say hello - introduce yourself to the people around you - the mailman, neighbors, folks at the grocery store, or the person behind you in line. This can be a great way to start a new friendship.
- Volunteer - so many worthwhile organizations can use your help. Read to the visually impaired, walk dogs at the local animal shelter, deliver meals to shut-ins. The opportunities are endless, and it will give you a wonderful sense of community.
- Join a group - do you like to read, enjoy photography, gourmet cooking? Regardless of your interest, you can find a group that shares your enthusiasm. You’ll make new friends and learn something at the same time. Win! Win!
- Phone a friend or family member - make it a point to stay in touch with all the important people in your life. You’ll both gain from it.
- Go online - reconnect with old friends or co-workers, look up people from grade school or your old neighborhood. Your social network may make you feel more supported and result in less stress.
Last, but not least - spend time with people you enjoy! Eliminate people from your social circle who are negative, toxic, annoying, or just get on your nerves!