Connection and service combats isolation and is good for you

Posted in: Club Newsletter, Featured, In The News, Reflections Articles

Connection and service combats isolation and is good for you

By Julie Bisbee

If you’re coupling a trip to the Rotary dessert table with a friendly exchange and a smile with your fellow Rotarians, you may be able to offset the ills of over indulgence.

That’s my personal hypothesis.

It is untested and unresearched. But research and science does show us that belonging to social groups and being connected to our community improves our health.

People who volunteer or are part of civic groups report a higher sense of well-being, happiness and belonging. Communities that are connected, care for each other, work to build bridges and are more resilient when hard times hit. Rotary is one of the many ways we can network, connect, care and bring the values of service to the Oklahoma City community.

Feeling connected to a community reduces the risk for heart disease, stroke, dementia, depression and anxiety, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some research also suggests that people who volunteer or are part of civic groups are more physically active.

As Rotarians, we are led to serve. Not just within our business or Rotary circles, but in our community at-large. We also know in pockets across the city and the state, Oklahomans are feeling as though they are on the outside looking in. Being socially disconnected or lonely carries the same risk as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, according to a 2023 Surgeon General’s Advisory that focused on the epidemic of loneliness.

Research in the advisory report highlights that less than half of adults surveyed felt emotionally close to others and nearly half of adults report experiencing loneliness with the highest rates among young adults.

While these statistics are startling, we can help. As Rotarians, we are well practiced in the art of making people feel welcome and getting to know someone. We do it each week. We do it in our many service opportunities. Embodying the values of friendship and service, we should lead by example as we create hope and foster goodwill in all parts of our lives.

Actively seeking to build partnerships to support community connections among schools, health organizations and workplaces are among the recommendations in the Surgeon General’s report.

At a Rotary lunch in April, I had great conversations with my tablemates as we talked about our connections to the non-profit sector before hearing from Marnie Taylor, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits. Each person talked about groups they were called to serve – youth, veterans, Oklahomans in recovery from addiction. Impressive.

Connecting, offering a welcoming hand and meeting the needs of Oklahomans through service is a tremendous act of kindness that not only benefits our communities, but also helps us feel more positive and live longer and fuller lives.

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