When Jeff Fromknecht and I were working on our book, "Social Capital: The Key to Macro Change," (Lapublishing.com, 2014) we reviewed all the literature to date that showed the power and potency of relationships in our lives. We found studies that showed that social capital was tied to health, happiness, advancement, achievement, and even life expectancy. It is amazing how important relationships are!
To add to this, just this week a friend sent me yet another study (2015) that corroborates this thesis. Researchers at Brigham Young University conducted a study with some 3 million participants that found that loneliness (social isolation) is as big of a killer as obesity and as dangerous as heavy smoking. They estimated that loneliness can increase the risk of premature death by around 30%!
The lead author, Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad stated: "The effect (loneliness and social isolation) is comparable to obesity, something that public health takes very seriously...we need to start taking our relationships more seriously." She is right. The reality of social isolation is all around us; and for vulnerable people (elderly, I'll, or folks with disabilities) the risks of isolation are even greater.
So what can you do about this? First is to assure that your relationships are stable. Work at them, don't take them for granted. Then consider reaching out to others, and especially folks that may be vulnerable. Remember that social capital is a two-way street and you can make a difference in someone's life - maybe even saving it!