“Social Connection & Social Distancing:
Contextualizing Current Evidence to Understand the Public Health Implications”
Social relationships are adaptive and crucial for survival, yet in light of the current pandemic we have limited means of fulfilling this biological need. Indeed, evidence suggests social isolation and loneliness were prevalent prior to the pandemic and may be exacerbated. Social connections have powerful influences on health and longevity, and lacking social connection qualifies as a risk factor for premature mortality. A systems perspective will be presented as a framework by which to address social connection with the realm of public health. Individuals, and health-relevant biological processes, exist within larger social contexts including the family, neighborhood and community, and society and culture. Thus, the interrelationships of individuals within groups will be presented in terms of understanding both the causal mechanisms by which social connection influences physical health and the ways in which this influence can inform potential intervention strategies. A system approach also helps identify gaps in our current understanding that may guide future research. The current pandemic has shown us how integral social contact is to every aspect of our lives, and thus each of these sectors can play an important role in solutions.