How Do Our Social Networks Affect Wellbeing?

group of people sitting on a hillside together

two men talkingHumans are social creatures—we live in community.  And our individual health and wellbeing is intricately tied to the health of our communities and our interactions with others. 

Our social networks influence our behavior

Many norms and behaviors are established by the community. For example, if everyone around us is smoking, then it becomes okay to do so. When a lot of people quit, we tend to imitate them and cease smoking as well.  

Obesity is another “contagious” behavior. In the fascinating book Connected, Christakis cites evidence that: “the average obese person [is] more likely to have friends, friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends that were obese than would be expected due to chance.”  

Thus norms and habits spread through our social networks. The ties we have to others in our community and the ties that our connections have influence our choices.  But we can also influence them!

Our social networks also provide benefits, not only to ourselves, but to our community. In fact, they provide so much value that they are sometimes called “social capital.”