Connection: The Key To Immune System Health

I am more concerned that loneliness and social isolation will negatively affect the immune system than a bad diet. In my research, staying connected to others (even virtually) is as critical to immune system health as diet. Online Academy can be a vehicle that brings people together virtually, fights social distancing, and helps people’s: immune systems, learning, WFH success. I pulled up 16 research studies (included below) that show the link between social connection and immune system health. There is an unintended consequence of the online academy and other virtual connection activities – they help people’s overall health by giving them a sense of community and belonging. That, along with diet, is a key to staying healthy during the time of social distancing and isolation.

I imagine saying social connections (even virtually) are critical for immune health can elicit eyes rolls and pseudo-science comments: that’s why I included the research below and dug deeper. I noticed online academy and other virtual connections improve peoples moods. During this time of social distancing, it is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL that people maintain strong social virtual connections to keep their immune system strong. Otherwise, loneliness, anxiety and depression will take over, cancelling any positive benefits of a good diet (that is also important).

Here are some of the highlights I pulled from the research (you can copy & paste any of the research studies below to see the science). My goal is that you see how human connection (especially now) is crucial for your overall health, happiness, well-being – and immune system health!

  • Loneliness is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and is 2x as deadly as obesity
  • The more positive social relationships you have, the faster your wounds heal, better your digestive system works, and the greater the degree of pain relief you experience.
  • Cognitive Decline
  • Cancer Rates
  • Mental Health/Suicide/Alcohol
  • A meta-analysis of over 148 studies including 308,000 participants showed a 50% increased likelihood of survival for those with stronger social relationships.  
  • Employee Health

This is ‘food for thought.’ The virtual connections of online academy and other such activities are really crucial for people who are isolated right now: it can keep immune systems strong. Stay connected everyone and together, we will come out of this stronger than ever!



Scientific Studies:

  1. Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., & Layton, J. B. (2010). Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PLoS medicine, 7(7), e1000316.
  2. Cacioppo, J. (2014, February 16). AAAS 2014: Loneliness is a major health risk for older adults. Retrieved December 23, 2014, from…/aaas-2014-loneliness-major
  3. Gouin, J. P., Carter, C. S., Pournajafi-Nazarloo, H., Glaser, R., Malarkey, W. B., Loving, T. J., … & Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K. (2010). Marital behavior, oxytocin, vasopressin, and wound healing. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 35(7), 1082-1090.
  4. Heinrichs, M., Baumgartner, T., Kirschbaum, C., & Ehlert, U. (2003). Social support and oxytocin interact to suppress cortisol and subjective responses to psychosocial stress. Biological psychiatry, 54(12), 1389-1398.
  5. Uvnas-Moberg, K., & Petersson, M. (2005). Oxytocin, a mediator of anti-stress, well-being, social interaction, growth and healing. Z Psychosom Med Psychother, 51(1), 57-80.
  6. Yang, J. (1994). Intrathecal administration of oxytocin induces analgesia in low back pain involving the endogenous opiate peptide system. Spine, 19(8), 867-871.
  7. Ohlsson, B., Björgell, O., Ekberg, O., & Darwiche, G. (2006). The oxytocin/vasopressin receptor antagonist atosiban delays the gastric emptying of a semisolid meal compared to saline in human. BMC gastroenterology, 6(1), 11.
  8. Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., & Layton, J. B. (2010). Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PLoS medicine, 7(7), e1000316.
  9. James, B. D., Wilson, R. S., Barnes, L. L., & Bennett, D. A. (2011). Late-life social activity and cognitive decline in old age. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 17(06), 998-1005.
  10. Heaphy, E. D., & Dutton, J. E. (2008). Positive social interactions and the human body at work: Linking organizations and physiology. Academy of Management Review, 33(1), 137-162.
  11. Shaffer, J. W., Graves, P. L., Swank, R. T., & Pearson, T. A. (1987). Clustering of personality traits in youth and the subsequent development of cancer among physicians. Journal of behavioral medicine, 10(5), 441-447.
  12. Killeen, Colin. “Loneliness: an epidemic in modern society.” Journal of Advanced Nursing 28.4 (1998): 762-770.
  13. Cacioppo, J. (2009, May 3). Epidemic of Loneliness. Retrieved December 23, 2014, from…/epidemic-loneliness
  14. Eisenberger, N. I., & Lieberman, M. D. (2004). Why rejection hurts: a common neural alarm system for physical and social pain. Trends in cognitive sciences,8(7), 294-300.
  15. Bancroft, J. (2005). The endocrinology of sexual arousal. Journal of endocrinology, 186(3), 411-427.
  16. Marazziti, D., Dell’Osso, B., Baroni, S., Mungai, F., Catena, M., Rucci, P., … & Dell’Osso, L. (2006). A relationship between oxytocin and anxiety of romantic attachment. Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health, 2(1), 28

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