The topic of human connection has been on my mind a lot lately, and this week’s blog is about why social interactions matter, especially as adults entering a new chapter.

One reason this topic is on my mind is because a friend of mine has shared her journey to find friends as an adult. It started with her being vulnerable and willing to talk about how lonely she felt after moving to a new town 4 1/2 years ago. Then she discovered she’s not the only one. In fact, the U.S. Surgeon General’s office released a report that said that loneliness and social isolation is now a public health crisis. While it is not confined to any single age group or demographic, it is more prevalent among older adults.

That hit home.

As I reflected on my friend’s journey, I realized that I hadn’t counted on (or prepared for) what would happen when I retired and no longer had the social connections that came with being in the workforce and working with the public.

My social interactions and relationships definitely changed, starting with the day I walked out the door and entered the retirement chapter. It led to the same loneliness and isolation my friend was feeling after moving to a new town.

Learner is my top theme in the Gallup CliftonStrengths personality assessment, which means I have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. It also means I need to understand why things work the way they do. In this case, I wanted to know why social connections were so important to our mental health.

So, I explored that a bit and want to share just a few snippets with you.

The idea that human beings are designed for connection is deeply rooted in our evolutionary history and psychological makeup. From the earliest days of human society, our survival depended on forming bonds, working together, and creating communities.

From an evolutionary standpoint, humans have always been social creatures, learning early on that prosperity (and even survival) was significantly improved by working in groups. These groups hunted together, shared resources, and provided protection against predators. Over time, our brains evolved to seek out social interaction and cooperation with others to create feelings of happiness and security.

Social connection is also important to our psychological health. Studies have consistently shown that having a strong, supportive network of family and friends increases our resilience to stress and reduces the risk of mental health issues such as loneliness, depression, and anxiety. These interactions give our lives meaning by offering a sense of belonging and purpose.

This inherent need for connection is not just a social preference but a fundamental aspect of human health and well-being. If a life transition didn’t upset your connections and relationships (like it did for me and my friend), the pandemic likely did as many people experienced unprecedented levels of isolation due to lockdowns and social distancing measures. (The pandemic happened after I retired, and definitely contributed to feeling like I was alone, adrift, and lost at sea.)

The human race was designed for connection, not isolation. Relationships play a critical role in our health, happiness, and overall well-being and in society’s collective mental health and quality of life.

It’s easy when you’re working or busy raising children, but what happens when that changes? When you retire, have an empty nest, lose a partner, or move to a new town?

What I’ve found is that navigating any life transition requires tapping into a multifaceted approach that raises awareness about the importance of social connections for health and also creates opportunities for people to engage with one another in meaningful ways.

It’s about forging new relationships, but also about deepening the ones that already exist by reaching out to an old friend with whom you’ve lost touch, or spending quality time with family members, listening and sharing without distractions.

You don’t have to be an extrovert like my friend to take small steps to turn this mental health crisis caused by loneliness and isolation around. Even introverts like me can find ways to connect (or reconnect) with others. All it takes is a commitment to making it a priority and actually creating opportunities to engage with others.

Not recognizing the importance of social connections was only one of the mistakes I made when planning for my next chapter. My free guide will help you avoid making the same mistakes I did. Grab it here.