The Importance of Community and Belonging

04.19.24 |

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy warns of an epidemic that is increasing rates of premature death, heart disease, dementia, and stroke.

The culprit: Loneliness.

You might have expected me to say obesity or tobacco or sedentary lifestyles. Unlike the more visible threats to our health, loneliness and isolation are easy to overlook but potentially just as serious as other diseases.

Humans are social creatures. We evolved to live in groups because we were stronger when we worked together. Fifteen humans had a better chance of surviving a harsh wilderness and fending off predators than any single human could, so from the beginning of our species, we gathered into tribes and communities.

More than just power-in-numbers, being connected to others has been found to have real, quantifiable health benefits. Though we need social connections to thrive, the growth of social media followed by the impact of the COVID pandemic has driven us apart. Social media platforms might boast about how connected the world has become, but the opposite is true. Our ever-accelerating modern lifestyles are driving many of us farther away from the connections that matter.

You can find community in a number of places. For some, its church. Others volunteer. Not all communities need to be that serious, however. A basketball league or a book club can forge meaningful connections as well, even if your shared activity is simply for the fun of it. 

If you are feeling lonely or disconnected, join a community and get involved. It’s okay if you’re not the most outspoken or social member of a group. Being present and participating in your own way can go a long way toward improving your health.

And there’s a hidden benefit that is, perhaps, more powerful than the rest: Your presence in a community helps others. A connection with you could help an individual move toward optimal wellbeing instead of toward disease. What a fulfilling, meaningful addition to your life.

Get involved!


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