People on their smartphones

Check your connection

Maintaining face-to-face relationships in our technologically-driven world is crucial to improving your mental health.

In the digital age we can connect with each other more readily and regularly than ever before, but this increased ability for connectivity does not necessarily lead to feeling more connected.

A national 2017 survey by R U OK? indicates Australians spend an average of 46 hours of their weekly downtime looking at TVs and digital devices, but just six hours engaging with family and friends.

In a study comparing the impact of both online and face-to-face friendships on perceived health, researchers noted that one reason internet usage may be associated with high levels of loneliness is because it decreases the amount of time available for face-to-face interactions.

Understanding social isolation

So what is loneliness? According to the Australian Council of Educational Leaders, it occurs when ‘our relationships are felt to be inadequate. It can occur even if we are surrounded by people, as well as when we are socially isolated’.

Research has found that loneliness may trigger the body’s stress response and have a related impact on the immune system. This might explain why chronic feelings of loneliness have been linked to issues such as sleep problems and a range of poor health outcomes. Studies suggest people who enjoy strong relationships may have a 50 per cent increased likelihood of living a longer life, compared to those with weaker relationships.

Types of connections

The connections in your life may include close friends, family and professional networks.

Friendships can help boost your happiness, lower stress, improve your self-confidence and reduce the risk of depression. Strong friendships may also help reduce your risk of other health issues, such as high blood pressure.

Relationships within professional networks generally aren’t as close as friendships, however, these types of connections can help you feel like you’re part of a larger community and expand your horizons.

And how you connect is as important as why you connect. According to studies, face-to-face friendships were found to generally have a positive effect on individuals’ perceived health levels, while online contacts offered a more limited boost to wellbeing.

How to deepen your connections

As well as devoting time to face-to-face interactions, keeping your connections healthy comes down to good listening.

It’s also helpful to avoid interrupting or rushing conversations. Showing you’ve listened by repeating back what you’ve heard in your own words can help them feel they have been listened to.

In the workplace, asking about colleagues’ interests outside of work, as well as calling or talking to them in person, rather than depending on email, can help to foster valuable connections.

Bupa health for members

Nothing is more important to us than providing our members with quality health cover. That is why we have designed a unique corporate health insurance plan for HIA employees and members, to ensure you get the most from your exclusive health and care partner. If you transfer from another registered health fund you won’t need to serve any waiting periods~.

Just by mentioning you are a HIA member, eligible customers will receive six weeks of complimentary cover when you join hospital and extras with Bupa*.

For more information, call 134 135 and quote your special offer code 2107431

Email hia@bupa.com.au

Visit www.hia.com.au

~Applicable if you transfer within 60 days of leaving your previous health insurer, and upon receipt of your Clearance Certificate. Waiting periods may apply for benefits or waiting periods not fully covered with your previous health cover.
*Only for new customers on new hospital and extras cover policies issued by Bupa Australia Pty Ltd ABN 81 000 057 590 and paying by direct debit. Six weeks free after initial monthly payment, not with other offers.

support services

If you need someone to talk to, you can:

  • Call Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 seven days a week, 24 hours a day. You can also chat to them online, email them, or join one of its online forums.
  • Lifeline also offer 24/7 telephone crisis support on 13 11 14 and an online chat service www.lifeline.org.au.
  • The government’s digital mental health gateway resource is available at www.headtohead.gov.au.
  • In an emergency, call 000.

Related Articles

A pint of adventure

Whether you are sitting in a pub or taking in the spectacular architecture, Ireland has something to ignite a spark of inspiration in everyone.

Beyond the illusion

Looking outwards, Rick Foster uses exercise, leisure activities and volunteering to help him in his recovery from depression and anxiety.

Regan’s story

Warning: the following story may be distressing for some readers. If this story raises any issues for you, contact Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

Turning point

James Hill shares his story in the hopes that others won’t needlessly suffer in silence like he did for so long.

Join more than 120,000 like-minded subscribers