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5 pillars of social health
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5 pillars of social health

Social health refers to our well-being when it comes to our relationships and interactions with others
Social health
Representational image | Canva

We are bombarded with information about how to be more cognisant of our physical health everyday. But beyond the confines of fitness trackers and calorie counts, lies a crucial and often overlooked aspect of our overall well-being – social health. This is where the our relationships, community bonds, and emotional well-being intertwine. Our social health is pretty much our capacity to form and uphold wholesome relationships, communicate clearly, and take part in fulfilling social activities.

It is impossible to overestimate the gravity of our social health and how it affects our general well-being. According to a 2022 study led by researcher Nadia Khaliq from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, UK, a lack of social support is associated with poor health outcomes and a shorter lifespan.

This means that when individuals experience a lack of social support, they may face increased stress, loneliness, and a higher likelihood of mental health issues. Over time, these factors can contribute to the development or exacerbation of health problems. Moreover, the absence of a robust social support system has been linked to a shorter lifespan, possibly due to the cumulative negative effects on both physical and mental health.

Happiest Health spoke to experts about what constitutes social health, and how it contributes to our overall well-being.

1. Quality of relationships

Shreya Gupta, Gurugram-based counselling psychologist says, “At the core of social health lies the quality of our relationships.” This means that instead of merely looking at the quantity of relationships, there should be a conscious effort to cultivate more meaningful relationships.

Relationships where we feel seen, heard, and understood are the ones which provide us with a sense of safety and belongingness, ultimately contributing to our emotional well-being.

Gupta notes that in the world of social media, we often end up paying more attention to quantity of social interactions over the quality of them, when it should be the other way round. “Investing time and energy in relationships that offer support, understanding, and genuine companionship is very important,” she says.

2. Communication skills and social health

Communication is the glue that holds social interactions together. Effective communication skills, according to Gupta, involves expressing thoughts and feelings clearly, listening actively, and understanding the nuances of non-verbal cues. This is what helps us cultivate, maintain and nurture meaningful relationships.

“A lack of good communication skills often leads to a lack of long-term and meaningful relationships,” says Gupta.

3. The role of community engagement

As inherently social creatures, humans derive immense meaning from being a part of a community and meaningfully contributing to it. From the evolutionary perspective, human beings who actively participated in communities had a much higher chance of survival. In this way, community engagement has always played an important role in our survival and well-being.

“The sense of giving back to the community and feeling like we are a part of something larger than ourselves is very important,” says Gupta.

Active participation in the community goes beyond individual relationships and extends to the collective well-being. Engaging in community activities, volunteering, or joining local groups fosters a sense of belonging and purpose.

4. Ecosystem of social support

“A good social support system means that you have people who you can rely on for support, and they can rely on you as well,” says Gupta. She adds that having a social support system helps us navigate life’s challenges and gives us a sense of security and belongingness.

A 2023 study by researchers from National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan, showed that having a social support system reduces the severity of depressive symptoms, increases life satisfaction, and enhances resilience.

5. Boundaries and self-care

Establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries is essential for social health, says Gupta. “This involves knowing when to say no, respecting personal limits, and finding a balance between individual needs and the demands of social life,” she says.

Prioritising self-care ensures that we have the emotional and physical resources to engage meaningfully in social interactions. Recognising and respecting our own needs is essential for a healthier and more sustainable social life.

If it is a balanced and fulfilling life we are after, then we cannot afford to overlook our social health. Investing in the quality of our connections could have quite the positive effect on our overall well-being; it is certainly worth the effort.

Key takeways

Social health plays an important role in overall well-being. It involved prioritising quality over quantity in relationships, cultivating effective communication skills, active community engagement for a sense of belonging, and maintaining a robust social support system.

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