WHY WE NEED CONNECTION & COMMUNITY FOR OPTIMAL HEALTH & WELL-BEING - NOW MORE THAN EVER
One of the reasons that connecting with others is so important is because social isolation is strongly associated with all cause mortality - higher than alcohol consumption, smoking, and poor dietary choices. Being isolated and not having a community is one of the biggest predictors of a shortened lifespan.
Researchers report a consistent relationship between social support, social isolation, and chronic diseases, especially cardiovascular disease.(1)
A lot of the research since 2020 landing on my radar has explored how this determinant of health has been amplified in an age of pandemic restrictions.
In their 2020 Literature Review COVID-19 Shines a Spotlight on the Age-Old Problem of Social Isolation, researchers found that loneliness was associated with decreased resistance to infection, cognitive decline, depression and dementia. (2)
Another review article from 2020 explored The association between loneliness, social isolation and inflammation and suggested that loneliness influences inflammation through the activation of the sympathetic nervous system and the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis. (3) Because we are wired for connection, when we are alone our brains perceive that we are not safe, and turn on the stress response.
Studies show that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness are contagious. (4,5)
Research on people from the world's "Blue Zones" - five regions of the world with the largest percentage of individuals 100 years of age or older - reveals that social support is a key external resource in moderating the impact of age-related adversities on measures of successful aging (6), and that the tight-knit communities within Blue Zones provide enhanced social support contributing to their increased longevity. (7)
Blue Zones research reveals the importance of how connected we are, and who we are connected to. These people chose—or were born into—social circles that supported healthy behaviours. (8)
We need a healthy tribe in order to thrive.
All of this research landing in my inbox during the past 20 months was a big part of what grew my conviction in the benefits of bringing the Wild Collective group health program to Niagara.
The Wild Collective's mission is to cultivate community and connection. The program brings together like-minded women who want to optimize their health, and when we speak our truth to other like-minded individuals, we are much more likely to stick to our goals and be more successful.
Arthur HM. Depression, isolation, social support, and cardiovascular disease in older adults. Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing. 2006;21(5):S2–S7.
Harden K, Price DM, Mason H, Bigelow A. COVID-19 Shines a Spotlight on the Age-Old Problemof Social Isolation. J Hosp Palliat Nurs. 2020 Dec;22(6):435-441.
Smith KJ, Gavey S, RIddell NE, Kontari P, Victor C. The association between loneliness, social isolation and inflammation: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2020 May;112:519-541.
Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study BMJ 2008;337:a2338
Christakis NA, Fowler JH. The spread of obesity in a large social network over 32 years. N Engl J Med. 2007;357:370-37922.
Buettner, Dan, and Sam Skemp. “Blue Zones: Lessons From the World's Longest Lived.” American journal of lifestyle medicine vol. 10,5 318-321. 7 Jul. 2016
Poulain M., Pes G., Salaris L. A population where men live as long as women: Villagrande Strisaili, Sardinia. J. Aging Res. 2011;2011:153756.
Resilience in Elders of the Sardinian Blue Zone: An Explorative Study Maria Chiara Fastame, Paul Kenneth Hitchcott, Ilaria Mulas, Marilena Ruiu, Maria Pietronilla Penna Behav Sci (Basel) 2018 Mar; 8(3): 30.
Gondo Y., Hirose N., Arai Y., Inagaki H., Masui Y., Yamamura K., Shimizu K., Takayama M., Ebihara Y., Nakazawa S., et al. Functional status of centenarians in Tokyo, Japan: Developing better phenotypes of exceptional longevity. J. Gerontol. A Biol. Sci. Med. Sci. 2006;61:305–310.
Kahana E., Kahana B., Lee J.E. Proactive approaches to successful aging: One clear path through the forest. Gerontology. 2014;60:466–474.
Blazer D.G., Hybels C.F. Origins of depression in later life. Psychol. Med. 2005;35:1241–1252.
Barnes LL, Mendes de Leon CF, Wilson RS, Bienias JL, Evans DA. Social resources and cognitive decline in a population of older African Americans and whites. Neurology. 2004 Dec 28;63(12):2322-6.