Significance of Social Connectedness to Mental Health

Significance of Social Connectedness to Mental Health

At our core, humans are relational beings. We are born into and relate first to our family of origin, and then we are largely raised in a community with friends, families, and neighbors. Logistically, we need other people to help make our world go around – but what are the effects of living in close community with others on our mental health? Across the lifespan, human-to-human interaction is an integral component of mental health and wellbeing. Every stage of development has different milestones that help to measure the achievement of developmentally appropriate tasks, many of which are relevant to developing and maintaining relationships with other people. To evade any of these milestones could lead to distressing issues within an individual, in a family system, or amongst peers. 

Studies show that people who feel well-connected and supported by others have lower rates of anxiety and depression, whereas those who do not have social connection are at higher risk for suicide, low self-esteem, and antisocial behaviors (Why connection is important for mental health, 2020). Affecting more than mental health, social disconnectedness and perceived loneliness/isolation are associated with worse physical health compared to those who are connected socially (Cornwell, 2009). In fact, social isolation and loneliness have been shown to increase premature mortality (Novotney, 2020). As you can see, the cost of disconnection is pretty high…

At this point, you may be asking yourself:

So, how can I increase my feelings of connection?

Well, the answer to this question is different for everyone. 

Are you feeling lonely within your family system?

  •  If the members of your family are willing and able, seek family therapy! In addition to aiding in the process of resolving conflict and implementing healthier forms of communication, family therapy can strengthen the bond between family members, giving the family members a greater sense of connection and belonging. 
  • Try connecting with extended family. Maybe some of the dysfunctions of your immediate family don’t lend themselves to healthy connection – reach out to that cousin you haven’t talked to in 5 years instead. Maybe you have something in common that you didn’t know about before. 

Are you having trouble meeting new people and making new friends? Take inventory of your interests – what can you do to meet new people and get involved in your community? 

  • Maybe your local gym has a recreational volleyball league you’ve been wanting to join. 
  • Maybe there is a group of people in your area looking to practice their Spanish once a week over coffee – ¿Hablas español?
  • Maybe you can start volunteering at a food bank, a hospital, or an animal shelter. 
  • Maybe you can try a new meeting at your place of worship or community center. If thinking about trying something new like this makes you nervous – you are not alone. Take the leap and get involved. 

 

What if putting myself out there terrifies me?

I think you know what the answer to this question will be! It’s normal to be nervous when trying something new. If you feel like you’re getting in your own way when it comes to putting yourself out there and being involved in a healthy way with the people around you, you may benefit from therapy. 

Cognitive Behavior Institute offers a wide range of psychological services that can help you through social anxiety, or anything else you may be experiencing. We have experts that work with children, adolescents, adults, couples, and families. We offer inclusive services to diverse populations and have clinicians who specialize in personality disorders, marital conflict, co-parenting, mood disorders, eating disorders, conduct disorders, and much more. We offer our services in-person and via telehealth, and we have a variety of locations for those of you in the Pittsburgh area. If you are in need of help, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for more information at 724-609-5002.

 

References:

Cornwell, E. Y., & Waite, L. J. (2009). Social disconnectedness, perceived isolation, and health among older adults. Journal of health and social behavior, 50(1), 31–48. https://doi.org/10.1177/002214650905000103 

Novotney, A. (2020, March). The risks of social isolation. Monitor on Psychology, 50(5). https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/05/ce-corner-isolation 

Why connection is important for mental health. Agape Treatment Center. (2020, May 10). Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://www.agapetc.com/why-connection-is-so-important-for-mental-health/#:~:text=%5B3%5D%20Lack%20of%20social%20connection,experience%20perceived%20isolation%20and%20loneliness