Social Connectedness Improves Health and Well-Being

by Audrey Demmitt, R.N. 

According to Vivek Murthy, the U.S. Surgeon General, loneliness has been rising for years and is now considered an epidemic. This public health concern profoundly impacts the health and well-being of individuals and communities. As researchers study loneliness and social isolation, we learn more about how social connectedness promotes physical, mental, and emotional health.  

Disconnected and Lonely 

We are a lonely society. Disconnection with families, friends, and communities is taking its toll. Many experts recommend strategies to increase social connections as a pathway to better health and healthier communities. Are you satisfied with the number and quality of your social connections? Do you feel supported and valued by your community? If not, you can prevent and ease loneliness through self-care efforts to build meaningful relationships. 

The Impact of Loneliness 

Loneliness has many faces and does not discriminate. Life circumstances, social forces, or the inability to form relationships contribute. Loneliness causes suffering — from the teenager who believes they aren’t “good enough,” to the mother with young children who craves adult conversation, to the older adult living alone whose vision changes.  

Steve Cole, Ph.D., director of the Social Genomics Core Laboratory at the University of California, Los Angeles, states loneliness contributes to diseases such as heart disease and cancer. It is linked to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, heart disease, dementia, and other conditions, leading to poor health outcomes, including earlier mortality.  

Feeling Lonely 

The experience of loneliness can vary from person to person. It may mean feeling:  

  • Deficient and unwanted 
  • Unsupported or uncared for 
  • A longing for contact with loved ones 
  • Unfulfilled in one’s relationships 
  • Unheard and unseen by others 
  • Left out or irrelevant 

Living with blindness or low vision doesn’t have to be a lonely, isolating experience that increases vulnerability to the health risks associated with social isolation. It is important to pay attention to your social health and be proactive. 

What is Social Connectedness? 

We are naturally social creatures and need human interaction to survive and thrive. Social connectedness is the degree to which we feel connected to others in the number, variety, and quality of relationships we desire. It creates a sense of belonging, being cared for, valued, and supported. It means having healthy relationships and regular social exchanges, a social support network we can rely on in difficult times.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people with meaningful social connections have: 

  • Less stress and better sleep 
  • Better overall health that can lead to a longer life 
  • Healthier habits and behaviors 
  • Improved coping skills and greater resilience 
  • Better quality of life and a sense of belonging 

How Can We Improve Our Social Connectedness? 

Each opportunity to interact with others can help strengthen our social network. We must develop trusting connections with family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and other people we know. We can also play a role in alleviating loneliness in others by helping them feel valued and connected to their community. As an interdependent society, we are responsible for caring for each other. This is the beauty of being part of a social economy; we receive and give support, and everyone benefits.  

Researchers are studying the impact social structures, policies, and programs have on social isolation and loneliness — helping design interventions to address the problem systemically. But we can learn ways to build a strong social network and improve our own experience of social integration.  

Here are some ideas to increase and strengthen social connections from the CDC: 

  • Invest time in nurturing your relationships. 
  • Explore ways to meet new people, like joining a club or taking a class. 
  • Share things you already do (like exercising or having a meal) with a friend—or do new activities with them. 
  • Find ways to be responsive, supportive, and grateful to others. 
  • Reduce practices that lead to feelings of disconnection from others, such as excessive social media use. 
  • Volunteer with an organization. 
  • Get involved in your community. 
  • Expand and diversify your social network by making a new acquaintance or friend, especially someone different from you. 
  • Provide social support to others, such as listening to a friend dealing with a problem. 
  • Get to know your neighbors. 
  • If you cannot be with others in person, substitute a phone call for screen time. 
  • Talk to a healthcare provider if you are concerned about stress, loneliness, and social isolation to ensure you are taking care of your mental health. 

Evaluate Your Social Support Network 

Individuals may need emotional, practical, informational, or motivational support. Having various people in your social circle can help meet your support needs. When we surround ourselves with people we care about, and they care about us, we feel connected and supported. These types of caring relationships must be cultivated.  

Take a moment to evaluate your social support network by considering these questions: 

  • Are you getting enough face-to-face time with family and friends? 
  • Who are your support people, and what kind of support do they provide? 
  • What type of support are you lacking? 
  • What can you do to nurture your relationships with friends and family? 
  • How can you improve connections with your neighbors and community? 


If you are lonely and socially isolated, it may take intentional efforts of social self-care to fulfill your need for connectedness. Everyone needs loving, healthy, and supportive relationships. We all need to feel a sense of belonging. The key is figuring out your social needs and then building a balanced social life. There is strong evidence that social connectedness has many benefits to our overall health and well-being, and we cannot afford to neglect it.  

Learn More 

 Social Connectedness and Self-Care ( 

Loneliness+in+America+2021_02_08_FINAL.pdf ( 

Harvard Study: An Epidemic of Loneliness Is Spreading Across America – Foundation for Economic Education ( 

Social isolation, loneliness in older people pose health risks | National Institute on Aging ( 

How Does Social Connectedness Affect Health? | CDC