How important is social connectivity to health?
Social connectivity – spending time with friends and family, taking part in group activities or having a sense of community – may be among the most important predictors of health.
Study upon study shows the myriad ways human connection plays a valuable role in positively supporting a person’s physical and mental health.
Having strong social ties has been shown to:
- Dramatically lower rates of disease and premature death. Those who lacked supportive relationships had a fourfold increased risk of dying six months after open heart surgery.
- Improve our long-term happiness. People’s happiness correlates to the happiness of others with whom they are connected – and people who are surrounded by happy people are more likely to be happy in the future.
- Decrease stress during major life transitions. Higher levels of happiness and optimism were associated with lower levels of stress and greater increases in perceived social support during life transitions.
- Support recovery. One study showed that higher scores on the Recovery Assessment Scale were related to both social support as well as engagement in activities.
And, the quality of our social networks has a lifetime impact on well-being as we age.
Incorporating social support and relationships into integrated care
Social support may not have a defined role in your workflow, but you probably already emphasize the importance of specific factors – chiefly nutrition and physical activity – when working with clients to create and achieve health goals. Bring up social connectivity as a third piece of this puzzle.
Here are some ideas for how to talk about social connectivity:
- Any team member in a service role could start a conversation by mapping out and walking through clients’ support networks. Then, talk through the varying levels of support throughout their network and ways to strengthen those relationships. Keep in mind that people define meaningful relationships differently. Talk about what makes each social connection meaningful to them.
- Encourage networking and growth among peers by assessing your organization’s current groups and activities. Consider how different wellness programs can incorporate social support in to the curriculum, such as Whole Health Action Management (WHAM), which highlights social support as one of 10 resiliency factors. What other new groups or group activities can you host – either at your center or in your community?
- Have a list handy of opportunities for volunteering, and think about how those opportunities connect to your client's interests and passions.
Incorporating social support into integrated care services is just as important to advance client’s whole health goals.
(Blog content from SAMHSA)