What has began as speculation is now cemented in science. Social isolation has serious ramifications on the health of the human body. As electronic communication and entertainment increasingly replace face-to-face interactions, we are beginning to see epidemiological effects of this cultural shift. Much as it took years to realize the deadly effects of smoking, the perspective of time is now revealing the effects of an excessively digital lifestyle. We are spending more time in front of screens, and less time with people. And this isolation is hurting us. According to psychologist Susan Pinker “Social isolation is the public health crisis of our time.”
In her TED Talk “The Secret to Living Longer May Be Your Social Life”, Pinker tells of her observations of a community in Sardinia. This community is renowned for the exceptional longevity of its inhabitants. The focus of her study has been identifying the underlying factors that make Sardinia such a long-lived community. The results may surprise some. Diet is not the most potent factor influencing longevity. Neither is exercise. Or smoking. Or drinking. And while important, the primary factor is not flu shots, hypertension medications or clean air. The study showed that Social Integration and Close Relationships are the most important lifestyle components for prolonging lifespan.
Anyone who has been to Camp Chippewa understands that the community is what brings us back to camp year after year. Days are filled with time with friends, and connections made in this setting last us a lifetime. So while social relationships are what bring us back to Cass Lake each summer, current science understands that this community is also what adds value – and years – to our lives.
Check out “Why Summer Camp May Be the Secret to a Longer Life” for the American Camping Association’s article.