3 Vital Components of Social Connection

3 Vital Components of Social Connection

Last week the United States surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, announced a startling new public health advisory, urging officials and health care experts to treat a specific matter with the same urgency as obesity or drug abuse. Its continued progression, he noted, now affects about half of all people in the country.

The government website reads as follows (from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the U.S. Surgeon General):

What if there is something in our everyday lives that can transform our whole health and well-being?

Something that can decrease the risk of developing and worsening: heart disease, anxiety, high blood pressure, dementia, depression, diabetes.

It exists.  It’s something that needs to be cared for and nurtured like a garden, by all of us. It can create healthier, more prosperous, and resilient communities.

That something is called social connection. (The issue is loneliness.)

The pandemic certainly exacerbated this challenge, but the issue has been ticking up since the 1970s for many reasons, including changes in social norms, built environments, and (of course) technology.

You can watch Dr. Murthy’s announcement or read the advisory, Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation, and some key facts from research include:

  • Lacking social connection can increase the risk for premature death as much as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.
  • Approximately half of U.S. adults report experiencing loneliness, with some of the highest rates among young adults.
  • Polls conducted in 1972 showed that roughly 45% of Americans felt they could reliably trust other Americans; however, that proportion shrank to roughly 30% in 2016.
  • In 1960, single-person households accounted for only 13% of all U.S. households. In 2022, that number more than doubled, to 29% of all households.
  • The rate of loneliness among young adults has increased every year between 1976 and 2019.
  • In a U.S.-based study, participants who reported using social media for more than two hours a day had about double the odds of reporting increased perceptions of social isolation compared to those who used social media for less than 30 minutes per day.

The website includes toolkits for a variety of groups, including schools, parents, workplaces, public health professionals, and media with strategies and proven research on building and strengthening social connections.

Fortunately, Chrysalis uses several recommended strategies to increase social connection among the girls and women our grantees and school programs serve, including convening stakeholders and programs to share ideas (Women’s Alliance), build relationships (hosting events), and increase awareness of the dangers of isolation (public education).

In addition, Chrysalis After-School programs engage a variety of tactics including peer-led programs, cooperative learning, peer connections, and a supportive environment.

We’ll use the information now available from the surgeon general to ensure we’re working effectively to strengthen the lives of all girls and women.