Social connection, aka our Power Circle, is key for living a longer and healthier life.
There are many different determinants to living a long, healthy life – diet, level of activity, genes, access to healthcare, income, and our social environment. One key factor that’s often overlooked is the presence of a strong social support network – family, friends, teachers, neighbors – Community.
Many of us go to great efforts to improve our health – we take up a new exercise program, we eat healthier, we quit smoking and so on and so forth. These are all wonderful ways to improve our health but what does it all mean if we’re walking through life feeling deeply disconnected and isolated?
Turns out – years of deep loneliness and disconnection take a toll on our health and overall wellbeing. Research shows that have a strong sense of community and deep social connection are inextricably linked to better health outcomes and longer lives. A longitudinal study conducted at Harvard Medical School followed over 700 men since they were adolescents in 1938 (that’s a LONG study!). A good portion of the participants who are now in their 90s are still involved in the study. And the data is fascinating. As it turns out, happiness and connection have a major impact on health.
Here are some top takeaways from the study:
- Social Connection is Key – those who were socially connected to family, friends, and community were considerably more happy and healthy
- Loneliness = Toxic – participants who were more isolated showed a decline in health in their midlife and shorter life expectancies than their counterparts
- Quality of Relationships Matter – couples who reported to be in satisfying relationships when they were 50 were the healthiest when they reached 80
- Our Brains are Protected by Good Relationships – the men who were in securely attached relationships when they were in their 80s stayed “sharper” for longer.
What does this all mean? It turns out we need to invest in the relationships around us and prioritize social connection. Remember relationships come in all shapes and forms – not just romantic. We can cultivate relationships with our peers, our mentors, our friends, our siblings, our cousins, our classmates, our colleagues…our power circle can be made up of all sorts of people.
We know it’s not always easy to make connection and sometimes we don’t know who to turn to for support. If you feel you’re struggling, know that there is help out there. Reach out to us at Beacon – we would love to be in your power circle 💓