Humans are social animals; we depend on socialization to keep us in touch with ourselves and others. In today’s world, we have become more connected via technology, but we have lost the ability to have a deep conversation and really connect with someone else.
Conditions such as dissociative identity disorder (DID) cause people sometimes to hide away from other people. We fear prejudice and that we will lose control in front of others.
This article shall explore the need for socialization, what happens when we do not, and the benefits when we do.
What Causes Social Isolation?
Social isolation is defined as the lack of social contacts plus few people to interact with regularly. However, social isolation can occur when a person is with other people. Social isolation is not the same as being alone. Many people live alone and do not experience loneliness or social isolation.
While there are many reasons for isolation, there are three root causes for social isolation.
Stress. When people spread themselves thin with commitments, there is left only a small amount of time to socialize. This isolation can cause stresses to pile up when people do not take time to spend time with friends. While it is normal and healthy to be committed and isolated for a short length of time, if it continues, the person can become overwhelmed without time for relaxation and decompression.
Problems with Mental Health. Depression, anxiety, eating disorders and other mental health conditions often accompany and are signposts for mental health problems. Many folks with mental health disorders such as complex post-traumatic stress disorder isolate themselves away from others when they feel bad instead of seeking socialization with a friend or family member. Social isolation may begin with talking less and less with family and friends, but then it can quickly spiral into remaining isolated at home, choosing to avoid social contact with anyone. Remaining alone with their problems can set the person up for further mental health problems and lack of communication with anyone outside their home.
Social Anxiety. Social interaction and the forming of new connections are essential for social health. Without it, we shrivel up and suffer. Social anxiety causes irrational anxiety, fear, and embarrassment because they cannot socialize as others would wish them to. People who have social anxiety feel getting into situations where they are forced to socialize opens them up to judgment and humiliation.
Living in Isolation is Not Good for Humans
As stated in the opening paragraph, humans are highly social and need other people to keep us healthy. When we are isolated away from human touch and communication, we can experience several negative aspects of our lives. Those changes include:
Significantly increased risk of premature death
Increases the risk of dementia by 50
The loneliness brought on by isolation is associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide
Add to this list is the fact that loneliness from isolation among heart failure patients was related to a four times increase in the risk of death, a 68% increase of hospitalization, and a 57% higher risk of emergency room visits (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2020.)
Although the stats archived above followed the elderly, the same can be said for anyone living in any economic, racial, or social status demographic.
The Benefits of Socialization
While there are some pretty bad downsides to not being socialized, there are many more advantages. Research has shown that the following are benefits of having a social life:
You will feel better. Engaging socially with others is associated with a stronger immune system in older adults, meaning they can fight off colds, flu, and some types of cancer better.
You may live longer. People who engage in socializing with others have shown a 50% increased chance of longevity.
You will feel better mentally. You may enjoy better benefits, such as lowered incidences of depression and anxiety, than people who do not socialize with others.
You lower your incidence of developing dementia. Recent evidence has shown that socializing is great for your brain and that people who connect with others perform better on memory and cognitive skills testing.
To pull it together, a person’s social life either in person or online can help a person in innumerable ways as they interact with friends, strangers, and family.
Ending Our Time Together
Humans need other humans to remain happy and healthy, both mentally and physically. While there are many reasons people like to isolate themselves, it is definitely not good for them.
Reaching out via Zoom, WebEx, Facebook, or some other social platform is critical to improving one’s ability to fight off disease and live longer.
But let’s not forget the best socialization we can exhibit, that of being with one another in the same space and doing some old-fashioned talking. Nothing feels better to our psyche than that.
“We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”- Martin Luther King Jr.
“Friends are only friends when the fights don’t matter because you understand each other better in the end.”–Cici Clawson
“Talking about nature and mankind, always remember that we have to be there for each other as we exist because of each other!”–Sanchita Pandey
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults: Opportunities for the Health Care System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25663