How Not Having Enough Social Interaction Really Affects Your Health

Humans are kind of like rabbits — social creatures with individual personalities (via the House Rabbit Society). And, like bunnies, humans require social interaction. In fact, according to the researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, humans "crave" interaction. "People who are forced to be isolated crave social interactions similarly to the way a hungry person craves food," says MIT professor Rebecca Saxe. "Our finding fits the intuitive idea that positive social interactions are a basic human need, and acute loneliness is an aversive state that motivates people to repair what is lacking, similar to hunger."

So, what does this mean? Social relationships have a behavioral, psychosocial, and physiological influence on our health. According to the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, social isolation can result in "psychological and physical disintegration," and sometimes death. Research also suggests that individuals who are more socially connected and have "satisfying relationships with family and friends" live longer and healthier lives (via Harvard Health Publishing).

Staying connected during a global pandemic

If you're too uncomfortable to experience indoor dining pandemic-style, there are other ways to connect with your friends. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin recommend calling your friends and family members in lieu of email or text. Why? Because, unlike typed communication, voice communication offers immediate answers and allows for emotional cues (i.e., tone of voice, inflection, and speed of speech).

"Over email, the message that's received may not be the same as the message that's sent," Guhan Subramanian, the director of the Harvard Program on Negotiation explained to The Atlantic. This is because text-based messaging (IM, email, SMS, etc.) is missing the "back-and-forth contextualization" and tone that you'd receive via a spoken conversation.

Another way to boost your social connection in a positive way is to get active. According to a team of researchers at the University of Basel, well-being can be enhanced via movement — especially if you're with a group of friends.