How Social Connection Can Improve Your Health

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You may know the basic health tips—get plenty of sleep, eat well, exercise regularly—but did you know friends are just as important? It’s true, the quality of your social life and relationships can play a big part in your health. While we’re reminded to maintain our physical health, we rarely do check-ups on our social well-being. Make this the year that you focus on creating healthy social connections.

Why healthy relationships are important

It’s not an exaggeration to say that your relationships play a major part in your health. According to the American Psychological Association, strong social relationships increase the likelihood of living longer by 50 percent, regardless of age, sex or health status. While social isolation can be as harmful as smoking or alcoholism

One of the longest studies on happiness has confirmed how important relationships are to our health. “People who are more socially connected are happier, they’re physically healthier and they live longer,” according to Robert Waldinger, the director of the study and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

But not all relationships are created equally. People in secure romantic relationships have a lower risk of heart disease, while people in relationships with a lot of conflict have a higher risk. The quality of your close relationships can also have an effect on your immune and nervous systems. When it comes to relationships, quality is more important than quantity.

The benefits of relationships

Great relationships can also benefit you beyond the physical. When you have a thriving social network, it can:

  • Increase your feelings of belonging and purpose
  • Help reduce your stress
  • Boost your happiness
  • Improve your self-confidence and self-worth
  • Help you deal with incidents that pop up in your life, including divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of someone close to you

Healthy relationships can also encourage you to change unhealthy habits like smoking or not getting enough exercise.

Creating social connections

It’s never too late to form closer connections. There are many ways you can create new bonds. You can reconnect with old friends, introduce yourself to your neighbors or make time for family members. You can also get out in your community by volunteering, taking up a new hobby, attending community events or joining organizations that align with your values.

You can also benefit from the connections you create outside of your social circle. Oftentimes, ilumed patients find working closely with their ilumed team leads to social connection. When Rhonda worked with her case manager at ilumed they formed a personal bond. According to Rhonda, “through the weeks of us talking, I really felt that I developed a relationship with her. She would call me on Fridays, and it was nice to hear from her. And in addition to talking about my medical, I started talking about my personal life.”

Wanda, another ilumed beneficiary, has a great relationship with her case manager. “Jack has spent hour after hour with me. I loved every moment I spoke to Jack. . .

Take a step toward connection

Help make this the year you make your social and physical health a priority. Visit ilumed’s ACO Reach for Patient page to take the first step towards a care team who may help you improve your life, both physically and emotionally.

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