person standing in the middle of wheat field

Scientific evidence has been growing that indicates when our need for social relationships is not met, we fall apart mentally and even physically.  An article from Psychology Today proclaimed “Social connection improves physical health and psychological well-being. One telling study showed that lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. On the flip side, strong social connection leads to a 50% increased chance of longevity.”

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, a book by Robert Putnam, discusses the social disconnect among Americans.  Putnam looks at social connection since 1950 and describes the reduction of in-person social intercourse that previously composed the fabric of our social lives. He argues that this lack of connection undermines active civil engagement, which is required from citizens of a strong democracy.  One only needs to look at Facebook and other social media to see that virtual  connection has injured our ability to engage in civil discourse about issues in the national interest.

A lack of close friends and broader social contact leads to emotional discomfort or distress known as loneliness.  We may feel sad, isolated, distanced from others, deprived, and these feelings tear away at our emotional well-being.  In teens, failure to be socially connected to peers is a key factor in predicting drop out rates. In adults, loneliness is not only a major cause of depression and alcoholism,  it increasingly appears to be the cause of a range of medical problems.

Psychologist John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago, has studied loneliness and reported on the its health risks.

  • Living alone increases the risk of suicide for young and old alike.
  • Lonely individuals report higher levels of perceived stress, even when they are relaxing.
  • Loneliness raises levels of circulating stress hormones and levels of blood pressure, undermines regulation of the circulatory system so that the heart works harder and the blood vessels are subject to damage.
  • Loneliness compromises the quality and efficiency of sleep, so that it is less restorative, both physically and psychologically.

In the article “The Dangers of Loneliness” in Psychology Today, the author reminds us how essential social connection is.  “Friendship is a lot like food. We need it to survive. Psychologists find that human beings have a fundamental need for inclusion in group life and for close relationships.”

Andrea wants to live in a world where the neighborhoods are walkable, bike lanes are plentiful, and the food is fresh, delicious and readily available. A 20-year veteran of the health and wellness industry, she started her career in the fitness industry while earning a master’s degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion, and then on to the burgeoning field of worksite wellness. Andrea has competed in collegiate level soccer, worked as a personal trainer, fitness instructor, wellness coach, and master trainer, climbed 14ers, and completed cycling centuries and metric centuries. All of these experiences give her the opportunity to view well-being from many different perspectives. When she’s not helping others to be their healthiest self, you can find her at a farm to table restaurant, down dogging at the yoga studio, or experiencing the Colorado landscape on a bicycle, snowshoes, cross country skis or on foot.