General Health Prevention

The Power of Community: How Connecting with Others Improves Your Health

Did you know positive face-to-face interactions support your physical and mental health?

When you visit your primary care doctor, they probably won't ask how many close friends you have or how often you get together — but those numbers can be just as important to your health and longevity as your physical stats.

Loneliness and isolation are not healthy.

Last month, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory on the epidemic of loneliness and isolation in the United States. He said, “Given the significant health consequences of loneliness and isolation, we must prioritize building social connection the same way we have prioritized other critical public health issues such as tobacco, obesity, and substance use disorders. Together, we can build a country that’s healthier, more resilient, less lonely, and more connected.”

The Surgeon General’s advisory noted that people who lack social connections face a 29% increased risk of heart disease, a 32% increased risk of stroke, and a 50% increased risk of developing dementia for older adults. Loneliness and isolation also contribute to depression and anxiety.

To support your physical and mental health, get together with friends. Researchers have found that face-to-face socializing works better than phone calls and emails at guarding against depression. Pleasant social interactions have been shown to boost cognitive performance in older adults, and people with healthy, supportive relationships also live longer.

Looking to expand your social circle? The Mayo Clinic has some tips for nurturing your existing friendships and building new ones.

If you avoid social interactions because you find them stressful or overwhelming, you may have social anxiety — but you don’t have to let anxiety ruin your social life. Anxiety is treatable using talk therapy, medication, and other strategies. 

Feeling lonely or isolated? A health advisor can help. 

An expert health advisor will take a holistic approach to health care that addresses everything from your symptoms to your social life. 

For example, Better Health Advisors works with Stanley*, 70, a Parkinsons’ patient who lives alone in Boston. His trust and estate attorney connected him with us so that he would have more support during his medical appointments and ER visits.

As part of our initial assessment, we found that Stanley had the right team of doctors, great health insurance, and an emergency plan in place — but he was so isolated that it was affecting his mental health. Our team found local activities that allowed him to explore his interests in art, dancing and Tai chi. A health advisor attended the first classes with him and created a calendar of ongoing activities.  

Over time, Stanley became more social, gained confidence, and even arranged a trip to Europe to visit his sick mother, something he had dreamed of doing for years.

An expert health advisor will provide ongoing guidance and make sure you and your loved ones consistently get great health care. If you need assistance selecting the best health insurance plan, finding a concierge doctor near you, arranging for mental health treatment, or answering other health-related questions, don’t hesitate to reach out.

*For client confidentiality, name and identifying details have been changed.

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