Being healthy is a team effort. There are many reasons that individuals, companies, and communities all need to communicate and coordinate for overall better health for everyone.
The American Public Health Association is advocating for the United States to become the “Healthiest Nation in One Generation” and during April’s National Public Health Week there is one day devoted to “Building Broader Communities.” The concept presents an immense challenge for greater public health, but in reality this change happens on the individual level as care partnering occurs one person at a time.
Research shows that connecting to improve health is actually…healthy.
One Is the Loneliest Number
A Brigham Young University study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science shows that loneliness is as important a public health issue as obesity.
“Actual and perceived social isolation are both associated with increased risk for early mortality,” states the study authors. “Being socially connected is not only influential for psychological and emotional well-being but it also has a significant and positive influence on physical well-being.”
Analyzing data from 70 studies and over 3 million people from 1980 to 2014, researchers found that people who were lonely or living alone or feeling socially isolated had a 30 percent higher chance of dying during a given study period, compared to those were socially engaged. It’s interesting to note that this was true for younger people, not just those over the age of 65.
His study noted that “both loneliness and social isolation are associated with poorer health behaviors including smoking, physical inactivity, and poorer sleep.”
Make a Connection
If you or a loved one is experiencing loneliness, there are many ways to make a change and improve well-being:
Join a walking group that meets regularly. There are numerous physical and emotional benefits to walking, and being in a group adds the needed social engagement. In addition, no gear or skills are required and often these groups meet in parks with paved walkways so that people with assistive devices can also participate. And being outdoors provides the ideal conversation starter: the weather.
For those who do have experience with a particular activity, consider signing up for dance classes or joining a team that plays games in your area. The documentary The Optimists is about a Norwegian elder women’s volleyball team and shows that age—and even a lack of skill—is no barrier to playing to a sport, and there is a lot to get out of being on the team.
Volunteer in your community. Whether through church or a local non-profit, there are many needs to be met with office work, yard work, making deliveries, tutoring, and more.
Find a book club or movie club or other association that is active with your favorite hobby. Public libraries may offer book clubs to join for free.
Remaining socially engaged in life doesn’t have to cost anything and can be done with as much frequency as desired. Not everyone chooses to be social, but there can be advantages to making positive connections.