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Better Together

by Beth on October 21st, 2010

Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.  ~ Swedish Proverb

I’m going to my college reunion next week.  I won’t tell you how many years it has been since I graduated, but I will tell you that I can hardly wait!  My college years were absolutely wonderful and some of my closest friends today are friends I met in college.  I’m sure many of you feel the same way.

So I thought it was an interesting coincidence when I picked up a magazine this morning and read in an article by Bill McKibben why he thinks so many of us feel our college years were the “best years of my life”.  He believes we are happy during our college years because most of us live in such close emotional and physical proximity with a lot of other people.  I couldn’t agree more!  I have talked before about the impact of social connections on our happiness and this is yet another example of how being in close contact with others makes us happy.

Unfortunately, Americans are less connected to others than we ever have been before.  McKibben suggests this is why the number of Americans who rate themselves as very happy has gone down since the 1950s, even as our standard of living has gone up significantly.  We spend long hours at work so we can buy that big house separated from our neighbors and our flat screen TV, which results in us being even more socially isolated.

A recent study by the CDC shows that Hispanics have the longest lifespan in the U.S.  Researchers are calling it the “Hispanic paradox” because a longer life expectancy is surprising in a population with a large share of poor, undereducated members.  A news segment highlighting the study showed a group of Hispanics laughing and dancing at a senior citizen’s center.  As I watched I couldn’t help but think of all the older white people who were likely sitting alone in their homes watching the same news show on TV.  I have no doubt the close relationships that Hispanics have is a major contributor to their longevity.

According to McKibben the average American has half as many friends as someone 50 years ago.  How very sad!  We need to nurture our social connections.  Our health and happiness depend on it!  So why not turn off the TV and head down the street to say hello to your neighbor or go out to dinner with a friend?

From → Relationships

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