Research suggests a strong peer network in the workplace, and having close and supportive relationships personally and intimately, helps individuals live longer and can increase happiness and health by 80%.
Researchers from Flinders University, found that people with the highest number of close friends outlived those with the least friends by 22 % – on average, living to the age of 79, compared to 65. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data on death rates shows people living in intimate relationships (including those in married and de facto relationships); – both men and women – have lower death rates than single people in almost all age groups. A 2009 study from Harvard Medical School found that the more friends’ women had, the less likely they were to develop physical impairments as they aged, and the more likely they were to lead joyful lives.
In a world that seems to be more isolating than ever, and with each emerging online social networking tool introduced, people are growing further estranged – so the above points and statistics are more important than ever to take in and take action on. If you don’t feel inspired by those figures, then include the recent studies that are showing there is a link between the increase in depression, social isolation, stress and hostility, and the lack of supportive relationships people have.
When some of my clients first come to me and report feeling isolated, and have a limited professional and social support network, I find they can also be suffering from stress, emotional issues, and possibly even physical illness. Most of them are finding difficulty creating healthy relationships with others. They admit to having a lack of confidence and self esteem, because they have been let down or rejected in the past, and therefore bounce around the wrong people and relationships – and the cycle continues. This is having a dramatic impact on their health, happiness and success.
A fantastic resource is Blue Zones by writer and explorer Dan Buettner. He spent his life traveling the world in search of answers to longevity and living a fulfilling life. Buettner argues that relationships are really the key to lifelong happiness, saying, “the happiest people socialize about seven hours a day,” and that “you’re three times more likely to be happy if you are married … and each new friend will boost your happiness about 10 percent.” He also explains that good relationships in the workplace are so important; adding that, “the biggest determinant of whether or not you’ll like your job is if you have a best friend there, more so than how much you’re paid.”
Having a hand to hold as you go through life makes the difficulties and challenging times easier to deal with. When things don’t turn out as expected, knowing that your friends, partner, family members and co-workers have your back allows you to go through the storms and come out the other side, feeling okay instead of broken.
I think we are in a social and relationship crisis period. I decided that I want to do my bit to end the isolation, stress and loneliness for as many people as I could, so I spend many of my days helping people to be able to create excellent relationships, friendships and networks that support them to excel personally and professionally.
Look around you now, think about your last week, think about the plans you have for the coming week. Are you surrounding yourself with people who uplift you and inspire you? If not, search for those people, connect in person, make plans for catch ups, have conversations where you are really interested in what others are saying, and get out there and support your community. If you know someone who is experiencing loneliness or doesn’t quite know how to build networks and friendships, help them and reach out to them. Your health and happiness is determined by these connections, so make it a priority.