The Benefits of Social Connectedness

The Benefits of Social Connectedness

Humans are naturally social creatures. The need to connect with other human beings is programmed in our DNA. We are wired for social connection. Since prehistoric time, people have lived together in groups where they found protection, help, support, common identity and shared knowledge. 

Throughout history, families lived under the same roof, where the young cared for infants and old, incapable to fare for themselves. So strong connections to others are one of the most important factors in our health.

Social connection refers to our relationships with the people in our network. Yet, this doesn’t reflect the quality of our relationships. Social connection is really about connectedness: the extent to which we engage with important, supportive people in our lives in ways that heighten our sense of belonging and well-being. It isn’t about how many friends we have, it’s about how happy we are with the connections we have.

Medical science has been writing for years about the importance of social interactions as a critical component for health, happiness and longevity.

The effect of social connectedness on our lives is so strong that when we feel rejected or suffer some other type of negative social interaction, our brain feels “hurt” in the same way than when we feel physical pain. Social pain is more similar to physical pain than we think. 

It has been suggested that feeling lonely is as bad for us as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness has been found to disrupt sleep patterns, elevate blood pressure and increase the stress hormone cortisol.

In contrast, high social connection and connectedness benefit our health in many ways. People who feel connected to others tend to experience better functioning physically, emotionally, and cognitively.  



Studies have shown that the risk of death among men and women with the fewest social ties was more than twice as high as the risk for adults with the most social ties. Moreover, this finding held even when socioeconomic status, health behaviours, and other variables that might influence mortality, were taken into account. 

Also, among adults with coronary artery disease, the socially isolated had a risk of subsequent cardiac death 2.4 times greater than their more socially connected peers.

Several recent review articles provide consistent and compelling evidence linking a low quantity or quality of social ties with a host of conditions, including development and progression of cardiovascular disease, recurrent myocardial infarction, atherosclerosis, autonomic dysregulation, high blood pressure, cancer and delayed cancer recovery, and slower wound healing.

Poor quality and low quantity of social ties have also been associated with inflammatory biomarkers and impaired immune function, factors associated with adverse health outcomes and mortality.

Supportive social ties can trigger physiological sequelae (e.g., reduced blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones) that are beneficial to health and minimize unpleasant arousal that instigates risky behaviour.

Emotionally supportive childhood environments promote healthy development of regulatory systems, including immune, metabolic, and autonomic nervous systems, as well as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, with long-term consequences for adult health

Social support in adulthood reduces physiological responses such as cardiovascular reactivity to both anticipated and existing stressors.



Research has shown that people actually perceive the world around them differently when they feel connected and supported by others. Happiness expert Shawn Achor describes research that people actually judge a hill to be 30 percent steeper if they are alone rather than with someone by their side. Challenges don’t seem quite so daunting when we feel the support of social connectedness.

Social connections help influence our health behaviours, in part, because they influence, or “control,” our health habits. For example, a spouse may monitor, inhibit, regulate, or facilitate health behaviours in ways that promote a partner’s health. Social connections can instill a sense of responsibility and concern for others that then lead individuals to engage in behaviours that protect the health of others, as well as their own health.

Social ties provide information and create norms that further influence health habits. 

People who feel more connected to others have lower levels of anxiety and depression. Moreover, studies show they also have higher self-esteemgreater empathy for others, are more trusting and cooperative and, as a consequence, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them. In other words, social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being.

So in summary, social connectedness can boost our mental and physical health by:

  • Creating a sense of belonging, purpose and identity
  • Giving you an improved sense of self-worth
  • Boosting your confidence
  • Boosting your levels of resilience
  • Making you feel more positive.
  • Decreasing sadness and loneliness
  • Lowering levels of cortisol and building a stronger immune system
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Improving rest and sleep
  • Live longer

So if you or someone you know are feeling isolated and alone, take that first step of calling someone or just saying ‘hi’ to a co-worker, the benefits can be life changing.

Darren West

Darren is a Psychologist who enjoys working with adolescents and adults on a wide range of presenting concerns including; depression and anxiety, grief and loss, parenting skills, family issues, trauma/PTSD, sleep hygiene, guilt and shame, anger management, drug and alcohol issues and phobias.