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The Ripple Effect: How Friendships Keep Us Healthy

Split Tech City

Split Tech City


Social connection is a necessity and a vital aspect of human well-being, regardless if you’re an introvert or an extrovert. The desire to connect with other human beings lies within all of us.

Strong ties to family and friends contribute to longevity and a sense of fulfillment in life.

Numerous studies indicate that lack of social interaction carries a significant health risk similar to smoking. While isolation can jeopardize the immune system and make it more susceptible to diseases, strong social connections are associated with healthy habits such as physical activity and eating nutritional foods.

This article will delve into the intricate connection between social interactions, mental health, and the direct influence that the people in your surroundings can have on your life.

The Social Fabric of Mental Health

Humans are inherently social beings, wired for connection and interaction. From the early stages of life, we crave social bonds that provide emotional support, a sense of belonging, and validation.

These connections extend into adulthood and play a decisive role in shaping our mental health.

Numerous studies have shown that positive social interactions contribute to lower stress levels, increased emotional resilience, and a greater overall sense of well-being.

Conversely, a lack of meaningful social connections or exposure to negative influences can lead to feelings of isolation, anxiety, and even depression.

The Impact of Personal Relationships

Personal relationships with friends, family, and significant others are critical for mental well-being. The support system of these relationships can represent a powerful resource during times of stress.

Positive personal connections contribute to a sense of purpose, fulfillment, and emotional stability.

American Psychological Association explains how friendships have a direct influence on our body: talking to a supportive friend lowers our blood pressure reactivity, going through a demanding task with a friend by our side lowers our heart rate reactivity, and facing difficulty, in general, seems effortless with a close person next to us.

On the flip side, toxic or strained personal relationships can act as significant stressors, with a detrimental impact on mental health.

The butterfly effect of negativity in personal relationships or lack of quality relationships can permeate various aspects of one’s life, including professional performance, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction.

The Epidemic of Loneliness

According to WHO, 25% of older people worldwide are socially isolated, while 5-15% of adolescents experience loneliness. Perspectives on Psychological Science reports that loneliness increases the risk of early death by 26%.

Social disconnection is on the rise worldwide, and while the pandemic and lockdown seem to have been the catalyst of this problem, the trend of social isolation occurred long ago, with the rise of social media and smartphones.

However, limited social media use can reduce loneliness and depression, while use without restriction shows no significant reductions.

Results also vary depending on different age groups. Younger people (18-39) experience higher levels of emotional loneliness after using various types of social media, while the opposite occurs with older people (60+).

Studies show that motives for social media use are paramount in determining whether time spent online will have a positive or negative effect on mental health.

While using social media for personal contact and maintaining relationships is potentially beneficial, using the same platforms for decreasing loneliness, entertainment, and avoiding everyday life problems is associated with poorer mental health.

The Power of Weak-Tie Interactions

Having close and intimate others in your life is a significant positive health factor, but even interactions with acquaintances and strangers boost our well-being. According to APA, everyday interactions at the local bakery or the gym make you happier than individuals who lack or have less of that kind of experience.

Experts encourage talking to strangers to help you feel more grounded, and connected and make life more enjoyable.

Minimal social interactions enable unplanned conversations and bring novelty to our lives. Introverts often dread such conversations and assume they would sound awkward, but people tend to prefer deep conversations with strangers, especially if they have something in common with their interlocutor.

Supporting Healthy Relationships

Psychologists promote platonic social connections across all areas of society. By recognizing the importance of positive social connections and actively cultivating a supportive environment, we empower ourselves to navigate the complexities of adulthood with resilience, emotional stability, and a greater overall sense of fulfillment.

Creating a positive social environment requires intentional effort and mindfulness.

Prioritizing and nurturing personal relationships with friends and family but also setting boundaries and limiting exposure to toxic relationships both personally and professionally is pivotal to enhancing our well-being and contributing to the collective happiness of our broader social circle.

The article was written by: Ana Knezović


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