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Is The Loneliness Of Social Isolation Killing Us?

by Adam Trouncer - 11 months ago

“You Are Not Alone.” That was the subject line in a marketing company’s email campaign that achieved phenomenal results. Social isolation is more common than you may think.

Why did that one simple phrase cause so many people to open an email?

The answer was simple: loneliness. Studies have shown that 1 in 5 Americans feels lonely and that loneliness as a condition is a growing health concern.

The Social Isolation Epidemic

Adam Trouncer, CEO of Athletic Greens®, had an opportunity to interview Jayson Gaignard of MastermindTalks and CommunityMade.

Jayson shared the concept of the “You Are Not Alone” email, and why it resonated with so many people. Gaignard believes…

On the one hand, we are connected more than ever through the Internet and social media. On the other hand, studies are showing that despite all our online connections, we feel alone now more than ever.

This is where social isolation comes in.

Gaignard shared with us how vital healthy relationships and strong community are to our overall physical health, mental state, and purpose in our daily lives.

Let’s explore this concept further and discuss how it helps us to alleviate the loneliness of social isolation and keeps us mentally and physically healthy.

Modern Society And Loneliness


To understand the loneliness epidemic, we need first to understand how we got here. If we compare today’s statistics with studies done decades ago, we find an increase in reported loneliness.

According to an article by Fortune, John Cacioppo, the director of the University of Chicago’s Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience states…

Several factors contributed to this fundamental shift in reported loneliness that is worth examining.

What Caused The Shift?

Why are we experiencing an uptick in loneliness and how do we combat social isolation? Cacioppo, via the above-cited article, discusses sociological factors that contribute to the change in loneliness statistics.

Many of us are aware of these changes and how it has affected us. In the past, we know that we lived with multiple generations and family all around us. In today’s world, families and friends are spread all over the country.

We don’t share as much of a community or network of support as we did in our grandparents’ generation, and we mostly catch up on social media instead of face-to-face.

Many of us had heard the term, ‘social isolation’ but what does it really mean?

According to Cacioppo’s research, relationships have lost a certain depth.

Social Networking vs. Social Isolation

Another major societal shift we are all aware of is the technological advancements of the last 30 years. The Internet and mobile phones changed everything.

We have many distractions that replace human relationships. In the 1970s and 1980s, we had TV, movies, and radio with limited options.

In today’s world, as Cacioppo adds in the Fortune article, “We have Tinder, Match, eHarmony, and all these kinds of places you can find friendships, connections and opportunities that didn’t exist. In the last 15 years or so, many of those face-to-face connections have been replaced with social networking.”

There is an overconsumption of content everywhere. Relationships seem to come and go, and friendships appear replaceable. We have many choices between social media and online dating sites that often amount to superficial relationships.

In many cases it is this transient social networking that causes feelings of social isolation.

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Technology Is Bittersweet

Technology has brought many people together, raising awareness, creating ideas, and increasing knowledge. It has made life more convenient, yet at times also more complicated.

It’s hard now to unplug and not be distracted in the middle of a conversation with a loved one. Technology has seriously interrupted face-to-face human interaction.

In an article by CBSNews.com, Dr. Jennifer Caudle, an assistant professor of family medicine at Rowan University, discusses that we are just spending too much time on social media and on mobile devices and not enough time being real with each other.

Avoiding social isolation means putting in the effort to make those offline relationships flourish.

Missing Threads Of Community

The common thread we are experiencing in this technological age is that authentic community is becoming rare, and deep relationships are dwindling.

Scientific studies have shown us that human relationships are not just vital to our mental happiness and stability, but also to our physical health.

This need for social connection takes us back to what our recent interview guest, Jayson Gaignard, shared about the need for community.

He focuses on building community and deep relationships with his friends and colleagues. To develop healthy and meaningful connections and break down the walls of social isolation, he chooses to keep the number of his inner circle at a minimum, with his closest friends being at about five people.

Therefore, community is valuable. Many people in society today are lacking a real and meaningful community.

Content and online social connection may be everywhere, yet many people feel disconnected and alone.

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The Link Between Loneliness, Relationships, And Health

It’s important to point out that loneliness isn’t just a feeling that people experience; it leads to physical and mental health problems as well.

One of the longest and most interesting research projects on adult development is by a team at Harvard University. Professor Robert Waldinger is the fourth director of this 75-year study that is still ongoing.

Out of 724 adult males, 60 are still alive and still partaking in the study. Waldinger delivered a Ted Talk highlighting research garnered from the study and the results were telling.

Waldinger’s overarching statement was concise.

Three big lessons on human relationships came out of the study as well. Let’s delve deeper into the results of those three lessons and how we can apply them to build better relationships and community.

1. Relationships, Community, And Longevity Are Linked

First, Professor Waldinger taught us that loneliness is a danger to our health.

People who have strong community, a supportive family network, and healthy relationships are healthier and live longer than those without those social connections.

In the study, people who had positive social relations were physically in good health more so than those who suffered from loneliness. The study found that people who isolate from others are not happy, are in declining health midlife, and have memory problems.

2. Building Quality Relationships

Waldinger’s second lesson: opt for quality, not quantity.

After studying so many couples, the team at Harvard learned that healthy, affectionate, and warm relationships improve our health and can help us live longer.

They also learned that toxic relationships have the opposite effect on our health. It’s really not how many friends we have; it’s the quality of those friendships that matter.

Entrepreneur Jayson Gaignard, shared a similar concept with us regarding the importance of the quality of relationships inside the concept of community.

He does this by keeping a close circle of trustworthy friends. The bottom line, having hundreds of friends on social media doesn’t cut it when it comes to developing a meaningful community.

3. Protective Relationships

The third lesson from the Harvard Study was about “protective” relationships.

Both men and women that were in relationships where they felt like they could really rely on the person had a keener and more intact memory.

Those that were in relationships where they felt like they couldn’t rely on someone had memory problems and overall mental decline. The safer and more connected people feel, the healthier they stay.

Again, it was the interaction and connection in those relationships that contributed to the overall health of the person. Feeling safe, warm, protected, and connected equals good health and longevity.

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Alzheimer’s And Loneliness

In support of the Harvard study, it’s important to point out that a recent Alzheimer’s study published in Jama Psychiatry added to the association between loneliness and social isolation with cognitive decline.

Many older adults that have the precursor signs of Alzheimer’s disease also reported loneliness as an ongoing problem in their lives. This potential link is currently being studied more as a possible connection to the disease.

Social isolation among the elderly is widespread, and a topic our modern society is failing to address.

Loneliness And Premature Death

The Huffington Post reported that psychologists at Brigham Young University and the University of Utah found that, “Social isolation and feelings of loneliness increase a person’s chance of premature death by 14 percent.”

The article explains that this is double the percentage of death by obesity. You have more of a chance of dying from the effects of loneliness than you do from being obese.

It’s becoming very clear from all these enlightening studies that building warm, reliable, and quality relationships is the key to a long, happy, and healthy life.

These are sound principles when building a community. The pattern we see across all this research is that loneliness can actually make us sick and eventually kill us!

We can eat well, exercise, drink our Athletic Greens®, and have success in our careers, but if we are lonely, then we may not get the lasting health and happiness we want.

Having A Healthy Community Is Ancient Wisdom


My father used to tell me when I was a child that if I ended up with around three to five good friends, I was doing well in life.

There is an old proverb “Loneliness breaks the human spirit!”

This inherent need for deep human relationships is ancient. In Genesis 2:18, God is quoted as saying, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Our need for community and human relationships is innate and built in us for survival.

It is something that has been taught and passed on for generations; to abandon this wisdom now in light of new technology would be detrimental to our health according scientific research.

 

What Does Community Mean To You?

What does community mean to you? Are you suffering from loneliness?

Do you have hundreds of online friends but not anyone you feel you can count on in person? Have you thought of ways you can build community into your life?

In the article on loneliness statistics at CBSNews.com, Dr. Jennifer Caudle recommends joining a church, synagogue, or mosque.

You can also take a class or join a club. These are all steps to building relationships and finding meaningful friendships. There is also the opportunity to make plans and reconnect with old friends face-to-face rather than online.

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All of these studies on loneliness strike a chord in my own life. As someone who has struggled with loneliness at different times in my life, I feel I’m a bit of an expert on this topic.

I’ve hit rock bottom with my health, and in business, and I’ve felt truly alone. It took a lot of commitment and a willingness to reach out to those close to me, to make a positive change.

For me, it’s crucial to put in the work to keep my close relationships solid. I have to make the effort to spend less time online and more time with people in person. But that effort is worth the reward.

 

Join The Conversation

We would love to learn more about how you battle loneliness and how you work on your relationships.

Join the conversation with the team at Athletic Greens® about the loneliness epidemic.

Start building your community today. Share with us your thoughts on how we can help each other feel healthy and connected, because nobody should die of loneliness.