What is social health? A practical guide.

Social healthArticleMarch 4, 2021

Taking care of your social health has emotional, mental, and even – surprisingly – physical benefits.

Share this

By Susan Warring

Studies have found that connecting with other people socially, whether it’s a brief daily interaction, a casual chat, or spending time with a special friend, reduces stress. This improves your ability to fight off infections, and more - research suggests that strong social ties are linked to a longer life, according to the National Institute of Health (US).

It’s been shown that social health is one of three innate psychological needs. The other two are competence and autonomy. When you interact with people, feel independent and capable, it improves your mental health, says the American Psychological Association.

This starts early in life. Right at the beginning, in fact. Babies are born able to connect. Their brains can match a person’s tone of voice to their facial expression. If their attempts to communicate don’t succeed, their social and emotional development can be damaged. Sadly, some children do not develop sufficient social skills before they enter school, their poor social health makes them more likely to fail, according to findings by the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development.

However, this is not a life sentence. There are many ways to improve social health, at any age!

Easy and rewarding ways to improve social health

The NIH’s Social Wellness Toolkit has six easy strategies to help those of us who are a bit stuck, to reach out naturally and easily.

  1. Connect with others
    If you’re not that sociable, there are still ways to connect with likeminded people. Like hobbies. Volunteering. Learning something new. Taking a course. Travelling.
  2. Care for yourself as well as others
    If you’re caring for someone else, are you neglecting yourself? Are you missing someone to talk to? Find ways to meet your own needs, and ask others to help, so you can take a break.
  3. Be active together
    Kicking a ball around on the grass or walking your dog and making new human and canine acquaintances, is good for all involved.
  4. Shape healthier family habits
    Kids learn by example. What you eat, how you unwind, what you do for fun, how much screen time you allow yourself, just be aware - your kids are taking notes!
  5. Bond with your kids better
    Love, praise, acceptance - all these things help build your bond. Observe, ask questions, do things together. It’s what you do day by day that matters, not the grand gestures.
  6. Healthy relationship building
    Share, listen, show support, don’t judge. Respect others and expect respect in return. Take the first step and start to look for opportunities. You will start seeing little improvements, and one day at a time, you’ll improve your social health!