According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, there are about 1 in 5 American adults, or 43.8 million people who experience some form of mental illness in a given year. A good chunk of them are believed to struggle so often and so hard that they can’t work, which eventually leads to financial problems.
Growing up with difficult family dynamics-or no family at all-can lead people into depression, anxiety disorders and other mental illnesses. If you don’t have a safe place to live, you’re more susceptible to these illnesses. On the contrary, if you live in a supportive environment that provides positive connections and influences, then it’s not uncommon for those same mental health struggles to be eased significantly.
In his book “Minding our Minds,” psychotherapist John Cacioppo highlights the importance of belonging: “we are hardwired from birth for affiliation.”
Research continues today trying to identify what makes people feel connected and how we might cultivate feelings more regularly on behalf of those who feel disenfranchised in modern society. Many surveys find that communities with strong social ties have better citizens, but research also suggests that if one becomes a member of social networks then their own likelihoods of getting sick or dying goes down.
Neighbors and communities can have both negative and positive effects on health, according to a new study by the University of Essex. The researchers analyzed studies done in Sweden, Canada, France, Great Britian, Spain. They found that neighbors and communities play key roles in improving cognitive function, reducing stress levels, increasing average life expectancy when factors are taken into consideration like adverse living conditions like poverty or poorer air quality. The article went on to highlight studies done which linked green spaces and flowers to a significant improvement in mental health.
It’s always uplifting when we find evidence confirming something we already know intuitively: all people benefit from feeling connected within supportive communities whether through work, friendships or family relationships.