“No Man is an Island…” John Donne
This famous phrase, first written in a religious text in 1624, may never have been more appropriate than it is today. Despite our electronic connectedness, loneliness and isolation are becoming ever more frequent complaints in today’s society.
While we all need some solitude from time to time, a 2013 study published in the Journal Psychological Science actually found that social isolation increased people’s likelihood of death by 26 percent. It is no secret that we are a social species, but the importance interacting with others has on our overall physical and mental health has long been underestimated. In fact, health risks associated with social isolation were compared in magnitude to the dangers of smoking cigarettes in a frequently cited 2001 study by James House.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Unlike many physical ailments, loneliness is much easier to target. Even surrounding ourselves with others, without direct interaction, has been shown to have positive effect and a smile and kind word are free and easy to share. So make an effort to say hello to someone you don’t usually speak with, strike up a conversation in the grocery line or just have a coffee out. It will do your health good.
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