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Your “social health” is your ability to make human connections. Your “social capital” is your ability to hang on to them.

An investment planner will advise you to diversify your financial capital to maintain your financial health. A social planner, if there were such a thing, should be telling you to invest your social energy equally between your Bonding, Bridging and Linking networks to improve your opportunities, cooperation, job prospects, health, love, finances, longevity and safety.

Bonding networks are close connections with people who help you get by – usually your family, friends and neighbours. Bridging networks are weaker connections that lead to opportunities – people from other walks of life and different social backgrounds – people you might meet at the pub or as a member of a club, organization or association. Linking networks create access to organizations and systems that help individuals and businesses get resources and bring about change. These connections are usually with leaders of public and private institutions, local and provincial governments – those with resources within and outside of the community. The common element in all these networks is trust. And that’s something we can only really judge face-to-face, not with the click of a button.

The World Health Organization first introduced the idea of social health in 1947 and declared the definition of health to mean physical, mental and social health. The bottom line on social health? People who get out and connect face-to-face on a regular basis tend to live longer, enjoy richer lives and recover faster from disease.* Those who don’t, don’t.

Social health doesn’t just apply to individuals and businesses though, it’s equally fundamental to communities, societies and countries. By the same token, danger and isolation creep over the horizon when your community’s social capital becomes threadbare.

When the social media bubble bursts in 2012, as many experts predict it will, a lot of people are going to realize that five friends in their community can add more social value to their lives than five hundred friends they’ll never meet, and perhaps don’t even exist.

So. How’s your social health and your social capital? Maybe today’s the day to invite a few friends and neighbours down to the pub for a pint and see if you can spot the odd kitchen renovator, politician or bank manager!

Until next time, stay well and assume the best.

Nicholas Boothman

*In the Alameda County Study by Dr. Lisa Berkman of the Harvard School of Health Sciences carefully looked at 7,000 people, aged 35 to 65, over a period of nine years. Their study concluded that people do not actively  socialise are almost three times more likely to die of medical illness than those who do. And all this is independent of socio-economic status and health practices such as smoking, alcoholic beverage consumption, obesity or physical activity! (more on this)

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