By now, you probably know why it’s important to eat healthily, get plenty of exercise, and stay hydrated. But there is one more health-promoting behavior that is as essential as diet and exercise, and that’s the quality of our relationships. Did you know that social isolation is highly predictive of poor health and longevity?
The “cure” is what researchers call “connection.” And again, quality is really important. It is not enough simply to be married or have lots of Facebook friends; genuine connection is about feeling known and appreciated by others. The research of Redford Williams illustrates the dramatic power of connection. He followed 1,300 cardiac patients for five years after their initial diagnosis and tracked their health outcomes. Patients who were unmarried and reported they had no one to confide in had a 50% chance of dying within five years; those who were married or reported they did have someone to confide in experienced only a 17% death rate. Other studies found that subjects who reported feeling close to their parents growing up or currently had better physical and mental health.
The feeling of being connected to others can also be accomplished by joining a service organization, volunteering, or attending religious services. No matter where this sense of connection comes from, it gives the body immunity and vitality. It may not be an accident that the word “wealth” starts with “we.” We do need one another for our well-being.