The Power of Social Connections
A social or personal network is a social structure made up of individuals who are connected to each other in one way or another. These connections can be through relationships based on friendships, kinships, work-related or social interests. Social networks are very important. In one research study started in 1965, it was found that people with more social connections were significantly less likely to die in the following nine year period than those with very few social contacts (Burt, 1987).
Not surprisingly, the right kind of social network can be very helpful in day to day life. They can reduce the negative effects of unemployment, help you deal with life transitions such as changing school, going to university and moving house. One study even found that they helped people improve at sport (Boginski, Butenko, Pardalos, & Prokopyev, 2004). In fact the more people you have in your social network, the happier and healthier you tend to be.
So, if you are feeling a bit lonely or isolated, how can you tap into the positive power of social networks?
Take some time to think about the benefits of developing and extending your social network. Recognise that you don’t need to be the life of the party, nor do you have to have a massive amount of close personal friends – a few close friends are all we need. The key point is to have friendly and meaningful connections with the people you meet and interact with on a daily basis.
If you think you might need some help, some contacts are:
- Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or (09) 522 2999 within Auckland
- Depression.org.nz - (8am to midnight) – 0800 111 757
- Youthline.co.nz - call 0800 37 66 33 or free txt to 234
Content adapted from: Coach Yourself, by Anthony Grant and Jane Greene, and Eight Steps To Happiness: An Everyday Handbook, by Anthony Grant.
Boginski, V., Butenko, S., Pardalos, P. M., & Prokopyev, O. (2004). Social networks in sports. Retreived 28th April 2010 from http://ise.tamu.edu/People/faculty/butenko/papers/nba_graph.pdf.
Burt, R. S. (1987). A note on strangers, friends and happiness. Social Networks, 9(4), 311-331.