Through the pandemic we all learned how hard it was when we couldn’t visit with our friends and family in person. The zoom calls and porch visits just didn’t cut it and we were feeling the isolation and the lack of social interaction. Luckily, that is no longer an issue for us, however, it brought an opportunity for society to study the effects of the loneliness and social isolation.
The main focus was the impact on mental and emotional health from the time away from our people. Meaningful relationships and socializing can lower anxiety and depression, build your self-esteem and empathy, provide connection and community, reduce stress; and this is why it is an important pillar of health.
The other component is the physical health benefits from strong relationships in our lives. Social isolation and loneliness have been linked to significantly increase the risk of mortality. Through numerous systematic reviews and meta-analysis of over a hundred of studies, the lack of social relationships increased the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cancer. This is represented from a negative trend of poor health choices and behaviours, for example, smoking, less fruit and vegetable, inactivity, alcohol intake, which can contribute to an individuals’ risk. When this was combined with a lower socioeconomic neighborhood, the association was quite evident of higher risk of mortality.
Exploring all the benefits of meaningful relationships is all well and good but how do we build new connections and maintain current ones. Here are some suggestions:
- Join a group focusing on your hobby i.e. Bird watching, sewing, hiking, cooking, etc.
- Volunteer at a school, library, hospital, charity, etc.
- Schedule at least one social gathering a week, meet a friend for coffee or invite a bunch of friends for a board game night
- Be open and honest with them, they are there to support, listen, and respect you when you are vulnerable with them
- Run errands with a friend, exercise together or any other mutual activity
- Go to a museum, concert or art gallery
- Communicate frequently, just a simple text, phone call or email goes a long way!
- Travel to a nearby town and explore
- Join an intramural team
- Strike up a conversation with the person you see on the bus everyday, or the person who walks their dog or gets the mail at the same time as you do, etc.
- Take a class i.e. Yoga, painting, pottery, comedy, tai chi, cross fit, dance, etc.
There will be other barriers to making or maintaining meaningful relationships such as distance, mobility, busy schedules, weather, hearing, lack of common interest, etc. However, if you can surpass these obstacles, you will reap the rewards of mental, emotional, and physical health and reduce your overall risk of mortality.
–Alison Parker, Registered Physiotherapist
Click here to book with Alison!
Algren, Maria Holst, et al. “Social Isolation, Loneliness, Socioeconomic Status, and Health-Risk Behaviour in Deprived Neighbourhoods in Denmark: A Cross-Sectional Study.” SSM – Population Health, vol. 10, no. 10, Apr. 2020, p. 100546, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssmph.2020.100546.
Valtorta, Nicole K, et al. “Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Longitudinal Observational Studies.” Heart, vol. 102, no. 13, 18 Apr. 2016, pp. 1009–1016, https://doi.org/10.1136/heartjnl-2015-308790.
Wang, Fan, et al. “A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of 90 Cohort Studies of Social Isolation, Loneliness and Mortality.” Nature Human Behaviour, 19 June 2023, pp. 1–13, www.nature.com/articles/s41562-023-01617-6, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-023-01617-6.