Why social connections really are a matter of life and death

America's loneliness epidemic must be confronted. There's much to be gained by fostering social connectivity, from boosting our immune systems to potentially reducing extremism.

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In the last few decades, the number of close friendships in America has dropped. Between 1985 and 2004, the General Social Survey reported that the average number of confidants Americans felt they could talk to about important matters in their lives fell from 2.94 to 2.08. Worse still, 25% of people surveyed responded with "zero". Andrew Horn, CEO and co-founder of Tribute, calls this the connection crisis: "This dearth of relationships is not just making us sad, it’s literally making us sick," he says. "There was a recent meta-analysis of 300,000 patients and it found that having weak social ties was as harmful to your health as being an alcoholic, and twice as harmful as having obesity." To turn this worrying trend around, Horn hopes we can become more intentional about communication. Social skills are foundational to our success, both personal and professional; why don't we teach it in schools at the same time as other core skills like math, science, and English? The benefits go beyond our personal wellbeing; Horn believes it could make society safer. "If you don’t have friends, that is what opens you up for extremism. It’s that when you don’t belong you will do anything to belong," Horn says. Andrew Horn is the CEO and co-founder of Tribute.