SOCIAL HEALTH IS IMPORTANT

Regardless of levels of introversion or extroversion, insufficient social connection is associated with poorer well-being.

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  1. Make sure to have three to five close friendships to call on when you’re in need.
    Research has shown that individuals who have at least three to five close friends experience the lowest levels of loneliness, anxiety, depression, and a range of other adverse health outcomes. Having too many friends can sacrifice quality for quantity. Having too few can leave you alone in a time of need.
  2. Get one to three hours of social interaction per day.
    That’s between 7 and 21 hours of social time per week – far more than the average of 34 minutes of socializing most of us get each day. This value aligns with the approximate 24 hours per week that tribal and pastoral societies have historically enjoyed. While this may seem like a daunting jump in social hours for some, social interactions can include a wide variety of activities: chit chat with your barista, a phone call to a friend, conversation over dinner.
  3. Prioritize spending time with those closest to you.
    We’ve found that individuals need to socialize with both “strong” and “weak” ties, but that the balance of your social energy should be spent on close friends and family with whom you have warm relationships. This is because close relationships fulfil our most important relational needs: to feel loved, acknowledged and validated. Building these strong ties takes time.
  4. Diversity in your social network is important too.
    So-called “weak ties” – those you don’t have a close relationship with – also matter. In fact, studies have shown that talking to neighbors can build a sense of community; making friends at work can reduce job stress; and even talking to strangers can create a sense of safety and provide a meaningful source of connection. Different relationships provide different types of support.
  5. Recognize the risks of living alone.
    People who live alone are at increased risk of loneliness and studies have shown that living alone, particularly for men, is hazardous to your health. That means that if you live alone, prioritizing social relationships may be especially important to you.
  6. Reach out to old friends and don’t be afraid to make new ones.
    Keeping and maintaining relationships can be hard – especially in today’s fast-paced world. Renewing old friendships can be an easy way to keep your social calendar full, but keeping a healthy level of engagement with new people will make sure your friendship well doesn’t run dry.
  7. Don’t forget the importance of solitude.
    Just as time with others is important, it’s also important to have time alone. It is perfectly good, and even healthy, to spend time alone. We call this “solitude.” In fact, for some, time with others may even exacerbate feelings of loneliness. Time alone provides an opportunity to restore your social reserves and meet your own personal needs.

Following these and other strategies can improve your health and well-being. However, addressing loneliness, like many of the big problems we face today, will require a whole-of-society response.

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