Wired for connection
Want to live a longer life? Spend time with people you love.
In our pursuit of health and well-being, we often focus on physical or external factors like diet and exercise. While these certainly play a part, there’s something less tangible but equally important that impacts our health, and that’s social connection.
Humans are wired for connection. We’re social creatures with an innate need to bond that kicks in the moment we’re born. As we move through the different phases of our life, different people take centre stage - our parents and siblings when we’re infants, our friends when we start school - but we’re always forging ties with those around us; it adds meaning to our lives and gives us a sense of belonging.
Belonging and longevity
Feelings of isolation can play havoc with your health. Studies have shown it leads to elevated blood pressure and stress levels, increases the chances of heart disease and inflammation, and impacts the quality of your sleep, making you more vulnerable to depression. And with your emotional well-being compromised in this way, it’s harder to stay positive and meet life’s challenges. It becomes a vicious cycle.
Spending time with friends doesn’t just make us feel good, it also provides opportunities for mental stimulation. Without this the brain can become idle, and, particularly in the elderly, increase the risk of dementia. Studies reveal that people living alone are more vulnerable to dementia or suicide.
Quality trumps quantity
When it comes to meaningful connections, it’s the quality of those interactions rather than the quantity that counts. After all, we can be surrounded by millions of people or have a thousand Facebook friends and still feel lonely. It’s authentic, lasting relationships based on mutual love and support that ultimately staves off loneliness.
Interacting with the people we love infuses us with a robustness and vigour that shields us from the stresses and strains of modern life. We may be in tip-top health with a hefty bank balance, but if we feel disconnected and alone, our health may take a severe knock and even cause premature death. Ultimately, having something or someone to live for can make for a longer, happier and healthier life.
— Zanine Wolf —