Social connections have been found to be critical to a healthy, happy and long life. Humans are naturally social beings and it has been found that feeling connected to people is crucial to not experience loneliness. The feeling of loneliness has a number of impacts to your physical and mental health.
"Loneliness impacts our health more than obesity and a lack of physical inactivity"
Reference: Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review
Loneliness and social isolation have been correlated with a vast array of illnesses and increased mortality. A study that looked at over 150 studies and showed that chronic loneliness had the same impact as obesity on our health outcomes. On the flip side a longitudinal study that was completed looked at centenarians and the reasons for their long life, it showed social connections as the top factor.
One of the clearest correlations with those that are happy is that they have strong social bonds. Studies have found that even small interactions on a daily basis increase our happiness. Also those that do not experience loneliness rate their lives, unsurprisingly, as more satisfying.
"The people in our 75-year study who were the happiest in retirement were the people who had actively worked to replace workmates with new playmates."
Reference: Ted talk on happiness
Those that experience chronic loneliness are seen to suffer more from anxiety and depression and these can impact your physical health. Loneliness was linked to nearly one in five (18%) cases of depression one year later by the National Institute for Health Research.
If you have an illness whether chronic or a one-off episode having people you can rely on for your physical and emotional needs is critical to help you cope, this was evident during the pandemic.
How you can feel less lonely
BBC radio 4 program describing tactics to feel less lonely
NHS help for lonliness
Futureproof article on how to change your mindset, which will in turn help with loneliness.
Ted talk on social connection
Reveals the result of longest running study in America
Article on relationships and happiness
Place to find people in your area with similar interests