One great thing about having the opportunity to travel is meeting new people, and benefitting from the things they tell or show me. On the other side of the issue, however, traveling takes me away from my family and colleagues in Pittsburgh and can lead to lonliness. Quite simply I miss people when I am away.
These reflections have caused me to think more about lonliness and social isolation. These 2 things, lonliness, and social isolation are not mutually exclusive. They are tied together but research in this area suggests that you can be socially isolated, and not lonely. Further you can be lonely, but not socially isolated. Nonetheless, if you are lonely, or socially isolated, you are at risk.
In fact, studies continue to report and demonstrate how risky these issues can be for people. As social animals, we need other people, and research suggests that isolation and loneliness are similar to hunger and thirst. When they are not present they threaten our survival and increase stress. This, in turn, lessens our immunities and we become so much more vulnerable and susceptible to illnesses.
In the end, friendships (social capital) are as critical for us as all the other basics of survival. Indeed, when we look at all the public health programs and campaigns that encourage us to exercise, or eat more healthy, or get more sleep to enhance our health; maybe we would do better as a society if we worked on friendships and relationships.
So stay connected, and be open to others. It is not only the right thing to do, but you will also enhance your own health!