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Lack Of In Person Connection Is Killing Us Quicker

Research suggests that social isolation can increase chances of death by at least 50%.


A lack of human connection was found to be more harmful than obesity and smoking.


Fascinating right? I've been diving deep into social connection after feeling periods of extreme loneliness.


It wasn't that I was completely alone, the circumstances at the time were I was working solely online, my husband working away and no close friends or family - all contactable via phone, and within an hours to 12 hours driving distance, I'd see people in person maybe once or twice per month. But I felt so alone. But of course, everyone including myself has their own personal lives and so much distance apart so trying to catch up can be challenging.


Our day-to-day lives are busy.


We spend our days balancing between appointments, other work commitments, activities, study and family responsibilities.


On top of that, we try to squeeze in exercise and running errands.


This leaves us with minimal time to connect. In a world of more virtual interactions than physical, human connection is now more important than ever.


At this moment, I'm rebuilding a life that feels good for me because we learn from all experiences.


During 2022 I could feel my brain deteriorating, it was very odd (and a bit scary). So of course, being the curious person that I am I started to dive deep into the science side of things of what could happen without a strong in person community. I was presented with things I could physically feel was happening within my body and mind.


Impacted physical health

Low self esteem

Higher perceived stress

Poor sleep

Lack of drive

Anxiety

Depression symptoms

Which I found super fascinating, one because this wasn't usually me - it was something I was experiencing, but also because I could contact everyone online or via phone - but what was missing on a consistent basis was: real human quality in person connection. I noticed after times spending with people I love, I felt lighter, happier and more connected - so this drove more research.


In a study done in 2019, adolescents low in in-person social engagement and high in social media use reported the most loneliness.


This was even pre pandemic.


By reading studies that had been done it made me realise what was missing, but deep down intuitively I knew this too.


Human societies form a dynamic and complex system, which requires frequent interaction between individuals.


In this study, a higher level of social engagement was consistently associated with less perceived depression, better self-rated health and higher quality of life. A Japanese longitudinal study showed that social engagement improves older people’s mental health, including depressive symptoms and psychological distress.


Social engagement could increase people’s social networks, which leads to attachment, esteem, social approval, belongingness, social identity and increasing access to social support


Something that is super fascinating is blue zones, where people have reported lived to over 100 years of age (“Blue Zone” is a non-scientific term given to geographic regions that are home to some of the world's oldest people. It was first used by the author Dan Buettner, who was studying areas of the world in which people live exceptionally long lives.)


One of the things that have been reported (whilst doing all the things that are 'bad' for our health such as happy hour, smoking, eating carbs etc) is that they have a strong community and take the time and effort to work on their relationships with their spouses and children; often keeping family close by.


All these key things lead to we need quality human connection to live a long healthy & happier life.

(which on a side note, i find super fascinating because the stigma growing up was you MUST leave your home town away from family because otherwise you will never grow, so me - I left at 17 because ya girl wanted to 'grow', I grew alright haha. When in fact, whilst I am grateful to have lived away and made some beautiful friends; is the silliest advice ever to have a quality life long term - unless you're in an unsafe situation or family has unfortunately passed away or something of the sorts, my opinion now is that we have our home base with family close in the area and then we venture off into the world, but have a safe haven to come back to)


Without it, we experience symptoms as I mentioned above but can also:

Lead to various psychiatric disorders like depression, alcohol abuse, child abuse, sleep problems, personality disorders and Alzheimer’s disease. Lead to various physical disorders like diabetes, autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and cardiovascular diseases like coronary heart disease, hypertension (HTN), obesity, physiological aging, cancer, poor hearing and poor health.


Left untended, loneliness can have serious consequences for mental and physical health of people.


So what we need more of quality human connection and engagement. We need our people.

So what is human connection & what could it look/feel like?

Human connection is the sense of closeness and belongingness a person can experience when having supportive relationships with those around them.

Connection is when two or more people interact with each other and each person feels valued, seen, and heard. This can be family, friends, work colleagues etc. There’s no judgment, and you feel stronger and nourished after engaging with them. How can we create more quality human connection?


My personal things I have done is:

More hikes/outdoors things with friends

More family gatherings

Make rituals and regular gatherings with people to stay consistent

Getting into local groups and volunteering (great if you don't have social network close by)

Saying hello to people on my walks (70% usually ignore but I always try)

Eating together

Be the friend / person you want to attract

Be around people who make the effort back

Moving closer to one another (if possible, currently part of the life vision)

Support friends ventures and make the effort to go to events

Tell the people you love how you are feeling (high chance they feel the same too! i know when i did, some of the people i spoke to felt the same - and because we knew we felt that way, we made even more of an effort)


I've found since re connecting in person I feel I can achieve ANYTHING. I've been changing my business model, my lifestyle, and getting out into community and all my relationships have improved - including the one with myself. My stress has reduced, I smile more, I laugh more, I am happier.


At the end of the day, there is one thing to have a life - but there is another to REALLY live it.


A quality life. A healthy life. A meaningful life.


All can only be achieved, with quality people around you in person. I leave you with this question and a challenge if you have felt something like this too: What kind of things will you look to try out to increase your in person human connection?

I'd love to know if you would like to share.


I hope this blog brings some insights & thank you for reading. Kirsti xx ----- References: https://www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/features/lonely-older-adults.html#:~:text=Health%20Risks%20of%20Loneliness&text=1-,Social%20isolation%20was%20associated%20with,50%25%20increased%20risk%20of%20dementia.&text=Poor%20social%20relationships%20(characterized%20by,32%25%20increased%20risk%20of%20stroke.

https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-importance-of-connection#benefits

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