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Social Connection Rx: Improving Depression, Anxiety, and Physical Symptoms via Human Connection.

As a lot of you know I do a lot of volunteer work around cars and bikes. It's always been a fertile landscape in my life to talk about how things are really going. It has always created a safe and relaxed, non-confrontational space for me... starting from holding the torch as a kid working on a Triumph TR4a with my dad to doing oil changes with my son on my old 1978 Landy!


In today's fast-paced and digitally-driven world, maintaining meaningful social connections has become more important than ever. Research consistently demonstrates the profound impact of social connection on mental health and overall wellbeing. I was reminded of just how impactful it can be this weekend in my own life. I had the pleasure this weekend of meeting up with the 'Drive Against Depression' Team to do our quarterly meeting at 'Young Timers Garage' and it just left me with this amazing glow all weekend.


Personally reconnecting with this amazing set of humans IRL to go through our strategy on how to make us the Charity of choice for the automotive industry in Australia was profound and it prompted me to write this blog to highlight the evidence-based benefits of social connection and how nurturing our social connections can lead to a happier, healthier life.


Numerous studies have highlighted the significant role social connection plays in reducing depressive symptoms. Social support from family, friends, and community networks has been shown to decrease the risk of depression onset and recurrence. A study published in JAMA Psychiatry revealed that individuals with weak social connections had a higher risk of depression compared to those with robust social networks (Cacioppo et al., 2015). Social connections offer emotional support, a sense of belonging, and opportunities for positive interactions, all of which contribute to improved mood and decreased depressive symptoms.

Social connection has been found to be a protective factor against anxiety disorders. Engaging in regular social interactions can help reduce anxiety symptoms and promote a sense of calmness and security. A systematic review published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders emphasized that social support is inversely associated with anxiety symptoms (Cairns et al., 2019).

Cultivating strong social bonds provides a buffer against stressors, fosters emotional resilience, and enhances coping mechanisms, ultimately reducing the risk of developing anxiety disorders.


Interestingly, social connection not only affects our mental health but also exerts positive effects on physiological symptoms. Chronic stress, often associated with social isolation, can lead to various physical health issues, including cardiovascular problems, weakened immune function, and increased inflammation.

A meta-analysis published in Perspectives on Psychological Science demonstrated that greater social integration and support are associated with reduced physiological stress responses (Uchino, 2019). Regular social interactions release feel-good hormones like oxytocin, which promote relaxation and lower stress levels. This, in turn, helps alleviate physiological symptoms and supports overall well-being.


In order for us to Live Our Best Lives we must make an effort to prioritize social connection in our life. How about today you reach out to a loved one, participate in a group exercise class, join a club or organisations aligned with your interests, or consider seeking support from mental health professionals when needed.


This weekend 100% demonstrated to me that by nurturing my social connections, I enhanced my overall wellbeing.


The transformative power of human connection is quite breathtaking.


Reference:

Cacioppo, J. T., Fowler, J. H., & Christakis, N. A. (2015). Alone in the crowd: the structure and spread of loneliness in a large social network. JAMA Psychiatry, 72(10), 941-948.


Cairns, K. E., Yap, M. B., & Pilkington, P. D. (2019). Juggling connectedness and emotional turmoil in adolescence: Associations with depressive symptoms and anxiety symptoms from a dual systems perspective. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 62, 19-29.


Uchino, B. N. (2019). Social support and health: a review of physiological processes potentially underlying links to disease outcomes. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 14(2),

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