Nov. 13, 2015

Imagine we were part of a village 50,000 years ago (or so). We all have our role and purpose, and are part of a connected group. Because there are people around, certain genes are expressed that stimulate the part of our immune system that will help prevent us getting a communicable disease. Makes sense. If we’re around a bunch of other humans, we’re more likely to get a viral infection, and our body specific cytokines to decrease our risk. Incidentally, this is the part of our immune system that may prevent cancer to some degree. On the other hand, our baseline inflammation is lowered.

Then our village gets attacked and we all scatter and flee into the woods, totally isolated from one another for weeks to months. We are less likely to get a communicable disease, so that part of our immune system calms down. We are however more likely to get a life-threatening wound and wouldn’t have anyone around to take care of us, feed us, or otherwise help us survive. Therefore our baseline inflammatory is higher than those found in a group. It’s almost as if our body is priming itself for a wound so that it can combat it and increase our chances of survival. Again, specific cytokines are released because of genes.

Fast forward to today

Despite how many people we have around us, including our families, how many people feel isolated and or lonely? How many people are inflamed today and more prone to infections because they don’t feel connected?

Living in the modern era we have more opportunities for connection than ever before. This interview with Dr. Bryan Walsh is a great example--recorded over the Internet using Skype. That kind of connection is not only possible but is very prevalent today on both personal and business levels. But the possibility and ease of surface connections doesn’t mean that meaningful, supportive connection is happening.

In fact, the opposite appears to be true

More and more people today are reporting that they are lonely, even though they are surrounded by people all day at their workplace, gym, shopping malls, and as they use mass transit. It’s that loneliness that is at issue here, and loneliness is contagious.

The prescription

  • Hug your kids.
  • Tell your partner you love them.
  • Do volunteer work.
  • Be part of a cause that’s bigger than you.

Here’s the outline of this interview with Dr. Bryan Walsh:

  • [0:01] Introduction of Dr. Bryan Walsh and the topic of social isolation.
  • [1:00] An example of how social structures impact the immune system and physical health.
  • [5:28] What really IS social isolation, how prevalent is it today, and how is it impacting our health?
  • [7:41] The single most factor of social isolation in spite of more social connectedness possibilities than ever before?
  • [12:09] What the studies are showing about Isolation as a threat to bodily health.
  • [18:54] The cyclical impact that can begin when social isolation sparks physiological issues.
  • [25:35] Historical ways of pursuing happiness and how they are impacted by social isolation.
  • [34:02] The human tendency to fixate on certain areas as the “cause” of physical well being and the importance of looking deeper.
  • [39:29] How the social media facade can work both ways.
  • [42:05] Emotional Intelligence as it relates to social interactions.
  • [44:15] Things to do to improve social health.
  • [49:26] Is hedonism part of the problem?


hedonic versus eudaimonic

social isolation

social genome



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