Humans are wired for connection. Feeling like we belong and matter helps us thrive. However, when we’re missing that feeling of connection, loneliness and isolation can set in and wreak havoc on our mental and physical health.
Here, we’ll talk about the physical, emotional, and mental health impacts of isolation and loneliness, and what you can do to help promote social connectedness so you and those around you can avoid the negative effects of loneliness.
Both loneliness and isolation have been linked to a slew of health problems, from mental health conditions to heart disease and weakened immune systems. When we feel lonely or isolated, our bodies are flooded with stress hormones like cortisol, which can lead to a host of negative health outcomes.
In fact, the Surgeon General's Advisory recently shared just how connected loneliness and isolation are to our overall health:
“The physical health consequences of poor or insufficient connection include a 29% increased risk of heart disease, a 32% increased risk of stroke, and a 50% increased risk of developing dementia for older adults. Additionally, lacking social connection increases risk of premature death by more than 60%.”
Moreover, the advisory reported that:
In his Psychology Today column, SonderMind’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Doug Newton, MD, MPH, shares that these statistics solidify “just how seriously we need to be in our efforts to reduce loneliness if we want to improve our mental and physical health.”
So, what can you do to decrease loneliness and isolation and strengthen social connectedness? The first step is to acknowledge the importance of social connection to your overall health. From there, there are a variety of ways we can start to build more meaningful connections.
Referencing the six foundational pillars from the Surgeon General’s report, Dr. Newton shares what you can do to make sure you, your kids, family, and neighbors don’t feel the alarming effects of loneliness and depression:
Loneliness and isolation can often be overlooked as “less important” mental health conditions, but the Surgeon General’s Advisory underscores the major impacts loneliness and isolation can have on our health. Building meaningful connections with others is crucial to our overall well-being, and it's important to prioritize this aspect of our lives. So make that phone call to a friend you haven’t spoken to in awhile or sign up to volunteer at your community’s next event — your body and mind will thank you.
You don’t have to go it alone. Sometimes we need some extra support to break out of bouts of loneliness and isolation. If you or a loved one is feeling a lack of social connection, therapy can help you develop skills to start rebuilding connections and improve your whole well-being. If you’re interested in connecting with a licensed therapist, SonderMind can help. Let us know what you’re looking for, and we’ll find someone who’s right for you.