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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Health Benefits of Community

Did you know that if you joined and participated in just one group - such as the Holistic Moms Network - you could cut your risk of dying next year in half? Seriously! Sure, it sounds like a great membership building tool, but according to political scientist and author Robert Putnam, being part of a social network has a significant impact on your health. "Joining a group boosts your life expectancy as much as quitting smoking" according to the Saguaro Seminar on Civic Engagement in America published by Harvard University.

In recent years, we have seen a remarkable decline in the social and civic engagement of Americans. Over the past 25 years there has been a 58% drop in attendance to club or group meetings, a 43% decline in family dinners, and a 35% reduction in simply having friends over (www.bowlingalone.com). Oh, sure, we're busy. We have other things to do. So what's the big deal? The problem is that a decline in connection reduces "social capital" or the collective value of our social networks which help build trust and cooperation. A reduction in social capital has been linked to decreased worker productivity, rising rates of depression, higher rates of crime, juvenile delinquency, teenage pregnancy, and child abuse. Social capital is also what makes governments more accountable and responsive to their populace. And, on an individual level, a lack of social capital leads not only to loneliness, but also to a lack of trust among people and an unwillingness to help others. In 1960 55% of American adults believed that others could or should be trusted most of the time while by 1998, only 30% agreed. "By virtually every measure, today's Americans are more disconnected from one another and from the institutions of civic life than at any time since statistics have been kept. Whether as family members, neighbors, friends, or citizens, we are tuning out." (Better Together Report)

Reconnecting through social groups by being part of community, serving on a town committee, organizing a neighborhood block party, supporting local businesses and farms, or singing in a choir can help rebuild our social capital, reaping benefits on individual, group, and national levels (click here for more ideas on building social capital). Being part of Holistic Moms is another way to help recreate community and play an active role in strengthening not only social capital, but your own personal health and well-being. It matters for all of us and for the sustainability of future generations!

2 comments:

  1. Nancy - have you read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell? I was just listening to it in the car on the way to Boston and he gives a great example of this exact phenomenon in the intro!

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  2. I haven't, but I'll add it to my "must read" list! Thanks!

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