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Connect: It’s good for your health!

Can I ask you a question about health?

When you think of what makes a person healthy, what comes to mind? Access to good healthcare? Eating healthy and exercising? Good genes? Yes, these are all important for your health. But did you know the social connections you have with other people are just as important to how healthy and how long you live? It’s true!

The connection between your health and your social connections

Social connections, or a sense of belonging to other people and to a neighborhood or community, affect our mental and physical health and can even help communities recover faster after natural disasters or emergencies. The opposite is also true. Loneliness makes our lives shorter.

In the Harvard Business Review, Dr. Vivek Murthy, former U.S. Surgeon General, said in his article Work and the Loneliness Epidemic, “the reduction in lifespan from loneliness is similar to the reduction associated with smoking, and it’s in fact, greater than the impact of obesity.” Wow! Who knew having deep connections with others and with a community mattered so much! You might wonder, how can this be? For example, if we are lonely, it makes us feel stressed. Chronic stress can lead to inflammation and an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses.

In the busyness of life, it can be hard to fit in time for our social life while tackling work, running children around, taking care of aging parents, or managing life’s daily tasks. Some of us live far away from family and friends. We may spend a lot of time commuting from home to work. Some people might struggle with depression, which makes reaching out even harder.

How to keep your connections current

Social connections are a sense of belonging to others and to a neighborhood or community. Neighborhoods that include places to gather and offer positive activities strengthen a sense of belonging and trust. The good news: When we are connected, our health benefits, then we feel happier and content with our lives. We can take some simple and some bigger steps to make sure our social connections are strong and healthy.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Talk face to face rather than on social media or the telephone with your loved ones.
  • Get to know your neighbors. Offer to help one another. Eat together.
  • Develop and keep at least three close relationships with people you can count on for help.
  • Get involved in at least one group or cause that’s important to you.

Improving Social Connections in Communities is part of Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s strategic plan. See our infographic for tips on how and where to connect. For more information, or for help developing ideas you might have for your community, contact me at And remember, connecting with loved ones and your community is good for your health!

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