Thursday, July 10, 2008
The piece reminds me of Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone. In a 2006 Time article, he wrote that we simply need to make more friends.
The one thing missing from that list is religion, odd because, as Arthur Brooks points out in his new Gross National Happiness, "about half of all voluntary associational membership, which brings great happiness to millions of Americans, is worship-related." And, unlike going to a club, a party or a volunteer effort, going to church doesn't suffer from diminishing marginal returns to happiness (at least up to weekly attendance.) (Bowling Alone, pp. 333-34, Gross National Happiness, p. 47.)
Social isolation has many well-documented side effects. Kids fail to thrive. Crime rises. Politics coarsens. Generosity shrivels. Death comes sooner (social isolation is as big a risk factor for premature death as smoking). Well-connected people live longer, happier lives, even if they have to forgo a new Lexus to spend time with friends.
So what can be done? Unlike global warming, we can solve this problem fairly easily by simply getting more involved in our communities and spending more time with family and friends. Family-friendly workplaces would help too. Reaching out to a neighbor or connecting with a long-lost pal--even having a picnic or two--could just save your life.
No picture of a church appears in any of the drawings of "building community".
Background of this series here.