Loneliness is an epidemic… AND Social Connection Matters!

Mental Health

⏰ The Surgeon General recently raised the alarm on the importance of social connection as a remedy for 😢 loneliness😢. Social connection is as simple as being connected to other people, to your community, and to the larger society.

📉This isn’t a new trend 📉. Since the 1970s, people have noticed that many of us, especially Americans, are getting more and more isolated. 🎳In fact, this concept was labeled “bowling alone” in the early 2000s, defined by people not engaging in a civic sense, not doing things that were traditionally done together with people (like eating dinner), and connecting with people less (even our own families).

🧑🏿‍🤝‍🧑🏽So in this context, social connection means making and keeping relationships with other people, but also having good quality relationships, meaningful relationships and connections, and being engaged in the community in a way that is meaningful to each person. Over the past 50 years, this has been harder and harder to do.

📊According to the most recent U.S. census, more than half of Americans report that they are lonely and don’t have social connection. Research suggests that people who don’t have social connection are less likely to seek health care and less likely to report having good mental health. Over time, this can mean that they may be at higher risk of illness like diabetes, cardiac disease, and mental illness. In a nutshell, being connected to others matters.

So what can people do to improve social connection?

1. Work on strengthening your close relationships with family and friends. These are the relationships that we have always had over the course of human history.

2. Increase your network and types of social connections. This may be faith based, interest based, or simply related to where you live. Having different connections that support you in different ways is important.

3. Focus on joining one group that matters most to you. Starting with a preferred interest may increase the likelihood that you will stick with it and meet people who have similar interests to you.

4. Figure out what is getting in the way of social connection and work on it. Is it the electronics or social media? Is it that you have been isolated during the pandemic? Do some deep thinking to understand more about why you might not be connecting with others.

5. Challenge yourself to be a good “neighbor.” Spend time thanking people in your life, volunteer, and call/follow up with people. By putting time and engaging in our relationships we signal to others that we want to be connected.

The bottom line: Loneliness is an epidemic, but we can focus on increasing social connection as a remedy. There are ways to do this, especially making important connections, removing barriers, and having multiple ways to connect with others.

🫶We need to address social isolation in our larger society, but we can start with the simple things. Remember that if you increase your social connectedness, you are also doing that for someone else and decreasing their loneliness too.

Stay safe. Stay well.

And stay connected.

Those Nerdy Girls

Additional Resources:

CDC Recommendations for increasing social connectedness

Putnam’s Bowling Alone

Recent Study on Social Bonds

The Effects of Loneliness on Health

U.S. Surgeon General’s Toolkit

Link to Original FB Post