It is commonly known that food and water are vital for human survival. While someone can go a day or two, or even a few without either, the body will require them soon enough. Food provides the body with energy and water hydrates the body to function properly. Another element that is essential for human life is sleep as it allows the body and mind to recharge and aids in proper cognitive and behavioral function. These three building blocks are imperative for a person’s existence and physical health.
Along with these three elements, there is another factor that contributes significantly to a person’s health. It stems from our relationship with others, whether it be family members, neighbors, friends, or any other group. The connection with others, the ability to interact with them, to feel a sense of belonging is vital to our existence. Social connection is as essential to our long-term survival as food and water.
The connections we make with others influence different parts of our lives and therefore our health. Take for example a person whose children have grown and moved to other parts of the country. Perhaps the person has not worked outside the home in a while and no longer has ties to work colleagues, or perhaps because of illness their mobility is limited, and can no longer drive or leave the house often. Not only can they be left feeling lonely and isolated, but their body, mind, and behavior are impacted which can lead to adverse health outcomes. Studies have shown that those who are socially connected live longer and healthier lives. Those who are not, have been found to have higher rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and weaker immune systems. They are more likely to be stressed and experience anxiety and less likely to engage in physical activity, eat healthy, or have quality sleep.
So, what can be done?
- Reach out to those you trust and nurture your relationship with them making a point to talk or see each other more often.
- Introduce yourself to your neighbors, other parents at your child’s school, or members of your faith community.
- Join a group at your local library or park district or even a service organization. Some of these are often looking for volunteers which is a great way to meet others while doing good deeds.
- Take a class at your local community college or Extension office. It is a great way to meet others with similar interests!
- Read Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation U.S. Surgeon General's Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community to learn more!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Veronica Aranda strives to enhance the well-being of families and communities by improving a person’s understanding of healthy habits and behaviors and facilitating access to the health and educational resources they have identified. Although Veronica enjoys working with people across the lifespan, her primary audience has been older adults and parents of school-age children. Her bilingual skills allow her to provide health education programming in English and in Spanish.