To love and to be loved. That’s what we all want, right? We are social animals meant to be connected to others. Our social connections shape who we are and are key to our health and wellbeing. In modern urban life, though, loneliness and disconnection are increasingly common.
Most of us have experienced the emotional pain of loneliness, and a recent article in the Guardian talks about why face-to face contact matters for our physical health as well. The author visits some of the hilltop communities of Sardinia where there are a large number of men and women that live well past 100. Research suggests that the close-knit communities in which they live contribute to their longevity.
Our survival hinges on social interaction, and that is not only true of the murky evolutionary past. Over the last decade huge population studies have shown that social integration — the feeling of being part of a cohesive group — fosters immunity and resilience. How accepted and supported we feel affects the biological pathways that skew the genetic expression of a disease, while feeling isolated “leaves a loneliness imprint” on every cell.
Being connected while living in a large city can take a tremendous amount of effort. But when both our emotional and physical well-being are at stake, the effort to create and maintain these social connections is worth the effort.