It has been well documented that social connection improves physical health and psychological well-being, and can lead to a 50% increased chance of longevity.
Social connection strengthens our immune system, with research by Steven W. Cole, PhD(1.), showing us that genes impacted by social connection also code for immune function and inflammation. This gives us a faster recovery rate from disease and people who feel more connected to others have been shown to have lower rates of anxiety and depression. Therefore being connected socially generates a positive feedback loop of well-being, emotionally and physically.
“A deep sense of love and belonging is an irresistible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don't function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”
Dr. Brené Brown, Professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.
We are profoundly social creatures.
The most interesting fact about connection is that it has nothing to do with the number of friends you have on Facebook. Talking out loud with friends helps you clarify things that are bothering you. It makes them less scary and can stop them from becoming overwhelming. Getting out and about with friends can even make your worries fade and you can relax physically.
Researchers also agree that the benefits of connection are actually linked to your subjective sense of connection. In other words, if you feel connected to others on the inside, you reap the benefits! So even though we cannot control the number of friends we have, one thing we can take responsibility for is the state of our mind. That is good news!
(1.) Steven W. Cole is a Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences in the UCLA School of Medicine.