Connection in community: the health benefits of being social - The Community Leader and Real Estate New and Views

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We know that the way we live modern life has changed. But despite these societal changes, our basic human need to connect remains. Recent surveys show that approximately half of US adults, and one in three Australians, feel lonely, with one in six Australians experiencing severe loneliness*. Research now shows the profoundly harmful impact that loneliness has on your health.

Loneliness is not just a bad feeling – it harms both individual and societal health. It’s associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, depression, anxiety, and premature death. Studies now show that loneliness is more harmful to your health than some of the major health issues of our time, such as smoking, obesity and physical inactivity. The impact on your mortality of being socially disconnected is as dangerous as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day**. And yet there is little commentary around this silent epidemic.

In the fight against loneliness, communities provide a powerful counteroffensive, offering a social safety net and a victory for your health. Community programmes such as volunteer organisations, sports and gym groups, religious groups, and member associations are fundamental in the fight against loneliness.

Kirsty Foster, founder and CEO of Social Mums Club, which now has almost 10,000 members and was established in the bayside, says that “the busy nature of life means that mums, who are critical to our communities, have minimal time for fun, connection, friendship and wellbeing, and so often feel lonely, deprioritised and uninspired”.

She set up Social Mums Club, which consists of free online and in-person communities, to improve the lives of mums by providing community and connection in an increasingly lonely world. And she tells some compelling stories of the impact that community and connection has had for her members – in some cases being the difference between life and death.

The message is clear: be socially connected in your community and you’ll find yourself having a much healthier life. Make it your goal to be more socially connected in 2024 – your health and longevity depend on it.

*Source: Is Australia experiencing an epidemic of loneliness? Working Paper September 2018, Relationships Australia.

**Source: Holt-Lunstad J, Robles TF, Sbarra DA, Advancing Social Connection as a Public Health Priority in the United States, American Psychology, 2017:72(6):517-530.

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