Social Health: A Holistic Perspective
By Beatriz Martinez
reviewed by juliana ascolani
Personal, professional, and community relationships determine our social health, and when we feel supported, our behaviors, productivity, self-confidence, and social intelligence can improve and provide benefits for our overall wellness. SolaVieve is dedicated to making a difference in your overall health and wellbeing by helping you discover and maintain a healthy lifestyle, for which social relationships play a fundamental role and contribute to your happiness. This series of articles connects the six dimensions of holistic health to understand how prevention through lifestyle and empowerment can improve your overall wellness.
What is social health?
Social health is the ability to interact with others, adapt to different social situations, and build meaningful and healthy relationships. Individuals with adequate social health are more likely to experience happiness, a sense of belonging and concern for others.
Social health involves experiencing integration, contribution, coherence, comfort and acceptance, as we are surrounded by the people in our environment. Meaningful relationships showed to be an important asset to keep us holistically healthy. Studies which followed people for more than 7 years carried out in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia showed that individuals with adequate social relationships have 50% more possibilities to live longer compared to those with an insufficient network.
On the other hand, nowadays there is a global tendency of feeling lonely and the quantity and/or quality of social relationships is decreasing. In England, a survey conducted in 2017 showed that 10% of people from 16 to 24 are “often or always” feeling lonely. Also, studies reveal that people are getting married later, choosing more often to live alone. Therefore, they might experience more income inequality, which prevents them from socializing. In addition, households of people from different generations are now less common than in the past.
What are the benefits of optimal social health?
- Empathy for others;
- Reduced stress, anxiety, and worry;
- Increased self-esteem;
- Sense of security and support;
- Sense of belonging;
- Strong communication skills.
What are the key components of social health?
- Social intelligence: This refers to one’s abilities to communicate with and relate to others successfully. The main aspects are social skills, social awareness, and social information processing. Firstly, social skills such as effective listening, assertive behavior, and the ability to build and maintain relationships are vital to boost social intelligence. Secondly, social awareness helps us recognize our emotions, resources, interests, and feelings, and how they can affect the way we communicate and build relationships. Lastly, social information processing refers to the ability to understand others’ behaviors and goals even if they don’t put them into words.
- Social relationships: As human beings, the personal relationships we build with others are essential for our overall health. Healthy relationships are based on communication, trust, and respect. Feeling supported by healthy personal relationships enhances our own self-esteem and personal security, which is needed to make important decisions and handle difficult situations. Being able to communicate our concerns and receive feedback from the people we care about helps us improve our behavior and overall wellness. Besides providing emotional support, close relationships can also be a source of inspiration for us to adopt healthier habits. When we’re surrounded by healthy people, it’s more likely that we’ll feel encouraged to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
Furthermore, social relationships don’t just include our personal connections but also the relationships we build at work and within our neighborhood. We usually spend most of the day working, and the way we feel at our workspace can positively or negatively affect our overall wellness. Therefore, healthy relationships with our colleagues and managers will boost our productivity and motivation. In relation to our community, the way we interact with our neighbors, for example, can also have a positive impact on our health. The feeling of home doesn’t start when we step inside the house and close the main door; home also includes the relationships we build with our surroundings.
How does social health connect with the other dimensions of holistic wellness?
- Mental: Feeling supported by our loved ones and our work environment will enhance our mental health by boosting our self-esteem, motivation, and personal security. People with whom we have healthy relationships will always want what’s best for us, positively contributing to our wellness. Stressful and difficult situations can be more successfully handled when we’re surrounded by the correct people who provide us with love, security, intimacy and companionship. When we boost our social connections and we build meaningful relationships, we decrease the likelihood of experiencing loneliness, which is the subjective feeling of isolation, not belonging, or lacking companionship. This way, we protect ourselves from feeling depressed.
- Physical: Being judged or unacknowledged by our community can demotivate us and erode our physical health. In contrast, surrounding ourselves with a health-minded community can help us stay physically fit and motivate us during difficult times. Several studies associate social isolation with poor health outcomes, for example, developing cardiovascular diseases, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, cancer, slower wound healing, and a poor immune system.
- Spiritual: Creating good and healthy relationships, both in our personal and professional lives, positively affects our overall health. Through spirituality, we can improve our social skills, such as empathy and respect. In addition, spirituality boosts awareness of our behavior and attitudes. Relationships help us explore inside and outside of ourselves, personal growth and goal strivings, all of which are essential for spiritual health and wellbeing. At the same time, spiritual ties give us the sense of belonging, responsability, concern and social participation we need.
- Environmental: Boosting our social skills while taking care of the environment is possible. We can get involved in transforming green spaces into community gardens, for example. The benefits are mutual; the area increases its attractiveness, while we create more spaces to socialize and develop relationships. Working on our social health also helps us connect and appreciate the world around us.
- Economic: Employment isn’t only related to financial but also to personal security. At work, we can build camaraderie with peers and communicate with superiors, fostering our social relationships. We’re more likely to feel engaged and productive when we feel valued at work, when our work and contributions towards the company and the team are appreciated. The feeling of personal security can increase the chances of promotion and help us achieve financial stability.
SolaVieve is dedicated to making a difference in your overall health and wellbeing. We invite you to explore your social dimension by finding out what works best for you, building on your potential, and continuing your holistic journey with us.
I am a journalist specialised in international relations, and writing is my absolute passion. I translate my knowledge and feelings into words, a process that has become my profession and at the same time my personal healing practice. I believe that being curious about what surrounds us is the key to educating ourselves and to further being able to express it to others. I love reading and am mostly interested in politics, human rights, social movements, and the passionate world of health.
I am a health researcher who bridges data science and health research with direct experience in healthcare and university institutions, passionately and collaboratively pursuing the integration and synergy of all key areas of health and wellness. I believe in inclusion as the main pillar of our society, especially when it comes to health. Promotion and prevention in health empower people to adopt healthy decisions, thus I have been working during the last years in the development of inclusive and holistic health systems. What do I enjoy the most about my job? Realizing how we are making a difference in people’s lives, and seeing the result in their health journeys. I enjoy the challenge of questioning new paradigms and creating debate around them.
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