True or False….
- Social interaction with others is a critical predictor of health outcomes.
- Lack of social interaction predicts an earlier death.
- Social isolation can have negative outcomes both mentally and physically.
If you answered true to all the above statements, you are correct! Research has proven time and time again that healthy relationships are what keep us going. They help us to thrive. The most prevalent evidence comes from studies of mortality across industrialized nations. “These studies consistently show that individuals with the lowest level of involvement in social relationships are more likely to die than those with greater involvement” (Social Relationships and Health, 1988). Research has also shown that at birth, if children do not have healthy interaction with their caregivers for a long period of time, they have a “failure to thrive.” The same is somewhat true of adults. Research has found that when we socially disconnect, we have a “failure to thrive,” if you will. We are more likely to struggle with anxiety and depression as well as more physical ailments such as cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, etc. (The Journal of Social Health and Behavior, 2010). In addition, the quality of relationships we have matter. Low quality relationships can increase stress, high blood pressure, depression, and more.
In contrast to the negative aspects of social disconnect, positive social interaction has a host of benefits. Research has shown that relationships that provide healthy social interaction, emotional support, and overall healthy connection, the less likely an individual is to experience the negative health outcomes listed above. Social “attachments” also help keep our minds intact. The Journal of Neurology found that those who were socially connected were more likely to have “stronger” minds and less likely to develop dementia. Along with a strong mind, research revealed, with friendships in place, we are less likely to struggle with obesity. Our friends keep us going!
This begs the question: if being disconnected is so bad, why do we do it? Brene` Brown offers insight,
“If I had to identify one core variable that magnifies our compulsion to sort ourselves into factions while at the same time cutting ourselves off from real connection with other people, my answer would be fear…When we ignore fear and deny vulnerability, fear grows and metastasizes. We move away from a belief in common humanity and unifying change and move into blame and shame.” (Brené Brown: Why Human Connection Will Bring Us Closer Together, Forbes)
Brown also states that the disconnectedness is a “spiritual crisis” because we are meant to be together. Scripture offers us that truth: “A sweet friendship refreshes the soul” (Prov. 27:9); “Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12); “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Prov. 27:17); “How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along” (Psalm 133:1). While there are many more scriptures that attest to the power of friendship, these are few that show us the power of connectedness is not just in science!
Psalm 68:5 “He will place the lonely in families.” Why? Because God knows we NEED each other. Yes, there is fear in vulnerability. Yes, there is pain in betrayal that can occur. But there is more pain in remaining alone. Take a chance to reach out and laugh, cry, share hopes and dreams with someone. Your life depends on it (literally!).
Braving the Wilderness, Brene’ Brown
The Seven Deadly Friendships: How to Heal from Painful Relationships Eat Away at Your Joy,
Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation and Fear, Scott Sauls
Frientimacy, Shasta Nelson
Peri Reed, M.S., PLPC, Registered Play Therapy Trainee
Certification for trauma in children and adolescents