Is Your Social Network Killing You?

“Having a poor social network is as bad for your health as smoking two packs of cigarettes a day,” states Matthew Lieberman in his book, “Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect”.  Lately, I’ve been picking up this pattern of importance in neuroscience books. TLDR: A lack of social connections is dangerous to health.

I’ve been researching what tends to keep people healthy versus what tends to increase risk for depression and declining health. Lieberman states that people are becoming increasingly disconnected from one another in the modern world. Yet, humans are social beings, wired to be around others since the beginnings of time. We banded together to survive – to hunt together, share community work and live in the safety of numbers. If someone was sequestered from the group, it was a signal that something was wrong. Even today, quarantining is used as a form of punishment. Studies have shown that not only is the risk of depression increased for those who are isolated, but it also increases the chance of an early death as well as dementia. [1]

When we feel down it is often contradictory because we don’t feel like doing the things that may help the most. Being around others is one example. But according to author and psychology professor/researcher Dr. Steve Ilardi, sometimes literally just being in the presence of people can help lift mood. Go to a café, take a walk at the mall. Go to a group run. Do work you were going to do anyway in a place where others are present.

And, research on social connectedness shows that it’s quality over quantity. Alex Korb, in his book, “The Upward Spiral”, writes that someone who has five people in whom they can confide is in a better position than an individual with 1,000 Facebook friends who feels they have no one they can really trust.

How would you rate your social connectedness? Is it something you’d like to improve?

[1] http://healthland.time.com/2013/03/26/social-isolation-not-just-feeling-lonely-may-shorten-lives/

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