Why it’s so important to keep social connections

Staying in touch with friends and family isn’t just an item to check off a to-do list. These social interactions help keep us healthy and our brains in good shape. Host John Deeks was joined on the YourLifeChoices podcast this week by pharmacist and master herbalist Roland Quigley who shared his thoughts on the importance of social connection.

Loneliness is a killer. Study after study has demonstrated that for humans, long periods without interaction with other humans causes not just mental anguish but affects other aspects of our health as well.

Social isolation has a number of documented effects on your health including a weakened immune system, extra sensitivity to pain and diminished brain function. According to a meta-analysis of more than 70 previous studies, self-identified lonely people have a 26 per cent greater chance of dying in a given year than people who don’t feel lonely.

Restoring social connections is important

Joining host John Deeks on the YourLifeChoices podcast this week is Roland Quigley, pharmacist, master herbalist and all-round wellness guru. He’s here to talk about the importance of social connection and how we can prevent loneliness as much as possible.

Mr Quigley says staying social and interacting with other people is essential to you overall wellbeing.

“There is no doubt that [social] connection is really the underlying feature of keeping everybody well,” he says.

“And over time, it’s easy to become unconnected with people for all sorts of reasons.”

Life certainly does have a way of interfering with your social connections, whether its work, kids or something else – there always seems to be something else pulling at our attention.

“When you’ve got young kids, you’re focused on them,” Mr Quigley says.

“You’re focused on your career, focused on your family, you’re focused, focused, focused. But there does come a stage when I think you should step back.”

But how do you do it?

John points out a common experience for older people is the loss of a partner, and the loneliness that can accompany that loss can be profound. Many find it hard to reach out to adult children in such circumstances.

Mr Quigley says you often need to be proactive in these situations if you want to re-establish social connections.

“My children are busy, I don’t want to bother them. This is a phrase I hear a lot,” he says.

“And I say, now look, this is time to put on your big boy pants and say to the family, ‘I’m going to take you all out for dinner at my place. And we’re going to have a discussion on where I am and where I’d like to be’.”

He says often children want to help alleviate their parent’s loneliness, but don’t know how to approach the topic. That’s if they’re even aware at all.

If you don’t have children, or if the thought of discussing your own loneliness with them is too difficult, Mr Quigley suggests finding a club of like-minded people to join.

“Any club, be it Rotary, Probus, Lions, sailing clubs, book groups. Whatever,” he says.

What’s important is building that social connection. It could very well save your life one day.

When was the last time you caught up with friends? How often do you feel lonely? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Noel Whittaker on the move to world without cash and cheques

Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyerhttps://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/author/bradlockyer/
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.
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