How social connection impacts well-being

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A diverse group of young adults laughing while enjoying a rooftop dinner together. Nothing compares to the bonds between people. We lift one another up, cheer each other on and provide support when life gets rough. But it’s more than emotional. Social connection has the power to impact whether we fail or thrive — or remain healthy or fall to illness. 

But why is the link so strong? We’re looking at the science behind the relationship between social connection and well-being. Explore this relationship and discover how to boost social connection for the better.

Understanding well-being

“Well-being” and “health” aren’t the same, but they spill into one another. Well-being can be either objective or subjective, impacting people in profound ways.

Objective well-being has its foundations in basic human needs, including food, education, health, safety and shelter. It tends to rise and fall depending on what’s happening at any given time — from social factors to cultural and political events — and is gauged by asking people to self-report. 

Subjective well-being is personal and measured by asking people how they feel. As a result, it relies on less tangible measurements, such as satisfaction, social well-being, happiness and a sense of meaning.

When our well-being suffers, so do our minds and bodies. 

Mental consequences 

Poor well-being can be a major blow to resilience. It puts people on shaky ground mentally, making it harder to cope with difficult situations. On top of this, if basic needs (i.e., SDOH needs) aren’t met, happiness and stress levels also take a hit.

Physical repercussions

Physical health is also at risk. That’s because stress creates a cascading effect, heightening the risk of depression and leading to poorer well-being and health. Individuals in this boat often have a decreased likelihood of leading a healthy lifestyle — from maintaining a balanced diet to getting sufficient exercise and sleep.

But can social connection make that much of a difference? In a word: Yes.

Discover The Truth About Loneliness. Download the e-book to separate myth from  fact.

The link between social connection and well-being 

Social connection provides enhanced support, improving our well-being and lending to lower health risks and better outcomes. Research showed that people with high levels of social support had a 63% lower risk of depression symptoms and a 52% lower risk of poor sleep quality compared to those with low social support during the pandemic. But regardless of external conditions — such as a global crisis — social connection remains the strongest protective factor against depression, even outranking lifestyle and environmental factors.

Similarly, lower stress levels impact physical health, decreasing inflammation that could give way to serious illnesses such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. And with strong social connections, people are also less likely to engage in behaviors that negatively impact their health — such as smoking — lowering the risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

But what truly makes an impact is that the vital feelings of belonging and support that social connection provides help people achieve their goals and thrive. In fact, according to the Surgeon General, adults rate social relationships as an important source of meaning, purpose and motivation in several areas of life:


Social connection and trust help build relationships that community members can rely on during hardship or disaster. One study surrounding COVID-19 found that government guidance was just one preventive factor, going so far as to spotlight the value of interpersonal trust toward lower COVID-19 infection rates and higher vaccine coverage. 


The academic demands of college are hard enough on their own, but without a support system, it can be like navigating the river without a paddle. But social connection with peers, parents and teachers make all the difference.

Connections correlate to positive academic outcomes. Students with adequate support have a higher likelihood of graduating college with a four-year degree, whereas a lack of connections leads to higher dropout and failure risks.


We spend too much time and energy on our jobs to have them beat down our well-being, but that’s the value of the people around us. Supportive work relationships contribute to every area of peoples’ careers — from job satisfaction to creativity to overall performance. The resulting support and communication stave off work stress and burnout so individuals can bring their best, improving engagement and work quality to pave the way for advancement.

Ways to increase social connections

Depending on a person’s age, social connection might mean different things, such as fitting in or developing deep emotional bonds. The challenge is how to fulfill those needs. Individuals and providers can work to increase social connections in numerous ways. 

Pursue volunteering and social activities

Health plan members have convenient tools at their disposal to develop social connections. The key is to get out and act. 

Volunteering for a cause — such as AmeriCorps or an animal shelter — helps cultivate a sense of purpose and community. The extra boost of oxytocin derived from selflessness goes a long way too. 

Participating in activities can be just as beneficial! Both physical fitness and group activities — from community sports and running groups to programs for seniors — foster a sense of connection and elevate endorphins. 

Integrate social connection into patient care

Providers have the power to lift their patients up, and it starts with care delivery. By assessing each patient’s level of social connection, you can identify their risk for severe conditions and begin to integrate evidence-based care. Of course, the best solution may not always be in your control. In cases like this, it could also help to connect at-risk patients with community organizations and support.

Foster social connection for better well-being

Without social connection, we can’t be our best selves, becoming more vulnerable to stress, anxiety and depression and opening the floodgates for more severe problems. But with it, we can thrive, fostering both positive well-being and health and making strides in the biggest areas of life. 

Pyx Health works to make this possible. Our innovative solutions combine human compassion with engaging technology to connect plan members with on-time care and valuable resources. This includes the Pyx Health app, which integrates interactive activities with evidence-based screenings to help members cope with loneliness, while support staff — ANDYs — work to connect them with community and plan resources. ​​Both our app platform and our human staff offer empathy and use positive psychology to deliver self-management tips and encouragement that help members nurture their natural social connections and improve their well-being.

Social connection and loneliness aren’t necessarily black and white. Download “The Truth About Loneliness” to explore the science behind each.

Cover of the Truth about Loneliness