We are social creatures. We are absolutely social creatures. Unfortunately, isolation is more the norm as we age and puts us at great risk for disease; not only depression but also heart disease, cancer, and dementia. Long-term studies show that people who are not socially connected are two to five times more likely to have these major threats to a healthy longevity. These risks, in fact, are greater than the risks for someone who smokes a half pack of cigarettes a day.
The good news is that the solution is not expensive or even difficult. It is maintaining and developing new relationships. Intergenerational relationships are particularly valuable. Social engagement requires a deliberate effort to stay engaged and connected with others since, in this fast-paced world, it is easy to lose contact, especially as we age. Healthy longevity depends heavily on social support and is a major factor in developing resilience.
Of course, regular face-to-face contact is ideal, as that is how we humans have interacted since our beginnings. In this age of technology, there are numerous opportunities to connect and reconnect, especially where large distances are involved. This technology can combat isolation and help locate people who have dropped out of your life. However, the ease of technology can become a barrier to the powerful positive benefits of in-person connection.
We are, unfortunately, in a time of widespread division and outspoken contention, which can rapidly lead to isolation. Making compassion a driving force behind all social interactions can overcome such division quickly. Forgiveness is another trait that can strengthen connections. And lastly, giving up the need to be right, particularly the need to make others wrong, is probably the most powerful thing we can do today to combat divisiveness and the resulting isolation.
So, keep your friends, family, and acquaintances close. Reach out to some that was lost for whatever reason. We are better together.