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Social connectedness is the level of connection a person feels with friends, family, coworkers, and society in general. Studies on this topic indicate that the greater the degree of connection, the greater the sense of personal well being. People with limited connections may experience feelings of isolation and could be at increased risk of mental health conditions in addition to having fewer available resources for social advancement and support.
Several metrics can be used to evaluate social connectedness. Studies usually attempt to assess the number of connections people have and the quality of those connections. Researchers may look at topics like the level of interconnection in social networks, the duration of social contacts, and the frequency of interactions. The level of disclosure and comfort in these relationships can also be important when evaluating their quality and depth.
In persons with high social connectedness, greater states of physical and emotional well being tend to be more common. These connections can also create a support network that may be useful in the event of a disaster or emergency; a person who falls ill, for instance, may need help with tasks like housecleaning and food preparation. If that person has an extensive social network, this support may be more available. Social connectedness in environments like workplaces also tends to create more employee satisfaction and loyalty.
Low social connectedness can create feelings of loneliness and isolation and may limit access to opportunities that are only available through social networks. The risk of depression, suicidal thoughts, and other mental health problems can be increased. These individuals may also lack access to support like help with childcare or assistance in emergency evacuations. Older adults and people with disabilities are at increased risk of low social connectedness and may report experiences of isolation when they meet with care providers, social workers, and friends.
Public health agencies have an interest in this topic, as promotion of social connectedness can indirectly create a happier and healthier population. Measures to design environments to improve the quality and quantity of social connections have been proposed in some nations by advocates for older and disabled adults. Simple steps like improving accessibility of public spaces to make it easier to leave the house can make a big difference. Technology can also contribute; access to reliable phone service and broadband Internet, for example, can open up more possibilities for socializing and building connections in the community.
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