The book Connected was recommended by my colleague, intellectual beacon and friend, Susannah Fox of the Pew Internet & American Life Project. In the midst of late nights analyzing health reform scenarios and medical microeconomics, I’ve made the time to read this book in its entirety. It’s been a worthwhile investment.

Previously, the authors of Connected, Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, found evidence on connectedness in health in the areas of obesity, smoking cessation, binge drinking, and other lifestyle behaviors that directly impact good or bad health. 

This week, another team of innovative thinkers led by John Caccioppo from the University of Chicago published their latest findings on the contagiousness of loneliness in the December issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The researchers dug deep into the Framingham Heart Study, the rich database of which was also used by Christakis and Fowler.

Christakis says that, “People on the edge of the network spread their loneliness to others and then cut their ties.” Caccioppo’s take on this is that, “an extraordinary pattern of contagion…leads people to be moved to the edge of the social network when they become lonely…on the periphery people have fewer friends, yet their loneliness leads them to losing the few ties they have left.” He compared this process to that of the loose ends of a crocheted sweater that, with the pull of one thread, can unravel the entire garment. That is the metaphor for tightly-woven social fabric.

Loneliness has been found to be a risk factor in heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and mental health, among other conditions.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: Here’s further food for thought on the issue of personal/public engagement and their impact on health — from personal health spreading to aggregate public health. Here’s an aspect of health that has little to do with health care, and more to do with, “It takes a village….”

While there are some researchers who aren’t fully convinced, statistically, of the power of connectedness and health, more anecdotal dots are being connected that bolster the theory. For the time being, people operating in public health should leverage the power of connectedness for better individual patient outcomes that will lead to improved community health.

13 Comments on Health is contagious: the nature of connected-ness

HealthPopuli.com said : Guest Report 3 weeks ago

[…] Christakis and Fowler wrote that, “If we are connected to everyone else by six degrees and we can influence them up to three degrees, then one way to think about ourselves is that each of us can reach about halfway to everyone else on the planet.” […]

How Consumers Look At Social Determinants of Health for Cancer, Diabetes and Mental Health | Pharma Strategic said : Guest Report 3 months ago

[…] inter-connections as people, for the SDoH of social support, cannot be over-stated. Our connected-ness, as Christakis and others have pointed out, can bolster our health….or diminish it. You can read more on this critical factor in […]

HealthPopuli.com said : Guest Report 3 months ago

[…] inter-connections as people, for the SDoH of social support, cannot be over-stated. Our connected-ness, as Christakis and others have pointed out, can bolster our health….or diminish it. You can read more on this critical factor in […]

HealthPopuli.com said : Guest Report 2 years ago

[…] two responses. For more evidence on that, turn to Christakis and Fowler’s research on being Connected — on the good and the bad aspects of our social […]

Health Populi marks 10 years with 10 milestones | Provision Networks said : Guest Report 2 years ago

[…] is contagious. So are negative health behaviors. The research of Christakis and Fowler published in their book, “Connected,” demonstrates people can kick-off a virtuous cycle of health for themselves that influences […]

HealthPopuli.com said : Guest Report 2 years ago

[…] And, of course, go back to the family meal recommendation and if the person lives alone, remember: health is social and we are connected in social networks for health. […]

HealthPopuli.com said : Guest Report 2 years ago

[…] is contagious. So are negative health behaviors. The research of Christakis and Fowler published in their book, Connected, demonstrates that people can kick-off a virtuous cycle of health for themselves that influences […]

HealthPopuli.com said : Guest Report 3 years ago

[…] “going it alone” for diet and exercise, detailed in Christakis and Fowler’s work, Connected. In addition, Michele Segar’s research published in her book No Sweat provides compelling […]

HealthPopuli.com said : Guest Report 3 years ago

[…] a lot greater when done with a mate, partner or friend than taking on that heavy lifting alone. (See Christakis and Fowler on Connected for more on the importance of social networks in […]

HealthPopuli.com said : Guest Report 3 years ago

[…] behaviors for the people we love — our family, friends and community. Health is social, and the research of Christakis and Fowler have shown that one’s social connections directly impact personal health. In aggregate, that scales to public health, in our nuclear […]

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