Social Isolation and Loneliness are as Unhealthy as Smoking 15 Cigarettes a Day, Alcoholism, or Obesity

Being connected with others may be much more important than you thought…

“Loneliness and social isolation are just as much a threat to longevity as obesity, smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being an alcoholic” as documented in a study done by Brigham Young University  “Relationships are — not surprisingly — enormously important for health, and there are lots of studies on the biological processes that account for the link between relationships and health,” says psychology professor Arthur Aron, PhD, director of the Interpersonal Relationships Laboratory at New York’s Stony Brook University. Human beings are social creatures that need to interact with each other.  We all need to be part of a community.  We all need to be loved, liked and feel belonged.  We have to be part of the bigger picture in this world in order to thrive.

The great news is that today, you can improve your relationships and strengthen your presence in your community.  Here’s how:

Get out:

In todays cell phone and computer driven world of disconnection, we are isolating ourselves more than ever.  So lose the anti social device and start talking to people. Perhaps you live alone or work from home. To connect, you have to go where the people are: coffee shops, parks, classes, conferences, sporting games, community events, fundraisers, parties, fairs, etc.


Did you know that your smile is actually contagious? When you smile or mimic another person’s smile, a part of you brain subconsciously releases “feel good chemicals” which automatically entices the other person to return your smile. This makes you both more attractive, happier and healthier.

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”  – Thich Nhat Hanh –


Volunteering is a way to become part of your community, give back and make a difference. Numerous studies consistently demonstrate that there is a significant relationship between volunteering and good health; when individuals volunteer, they not only help their community but also experience better health in later years, whether in terms of greater longevity, higher functional ability, or lower rates of depression. Research also suggests that volunteer activities offer those who serve more than just a social network to provide support and alleviate stress; volunteering also provides individuals with a sense of purpose and life satisfaction. Click here for 10 reasons to volunteer.


Appreciate each other:

Everyone needs to be appreciated – it keeps relationships going. When was the last time you told a friend how much you appreciated your friendship? When did you notice someone doing a great job, did you acknowledge it? How often do you tell the one you love just “I love you”?

Weed your (relationship) garden: 

We all know a garden full of weeds cannot grow. Just like a garden – having negative people in your life will slow your growth and block the positive, optimistic people from coming into your life. For the most part, a good relationship makes you feel secure, happy, loved, respected and free to be yourself. If not, it’s time to cut them loose – pull those weeds.

Open communication: 

When people don’t talk about important issues, misunderstandings can occur and tensions usually build up. It’s a good idea to set aside some time to just talk about the way things are going. Communication is a discipline that has to practiced regularly; it’s like walking or taking a vitamin.

Strong relationships and being part of a community are a vital component of health and wellbeing. Start today with these tips.

  1. Abstract study from Brigham Young University. “Loneliness and social isolation are just as much a threat to longevity as obesity.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 March 2015. <>.
  2.  J. Holt-Lunstad, T. B. Smith, M. Baker, T. Harris, D. Stephenson. Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality: A Meta-Analytic Review. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2015; 10 (2): 227 DOI: 10.1177/1745691614568352
  3. The Nation’s Health March 2011 vol. 41 no. 2 20. psychology professor Arthur Aron, PhD, director of the Interpersonal Relationships Laboratory at New York’s Stony Brook University –check
  4.  Corporation for National and Community Service, Office of Research and Policy Development. The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research, Washington, DC 2007.
  5. 10 reasons to volunteer.
Julie Olson

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