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The Importance of Community and Belonging


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Millennials are so good at staying connected electronically it’s easy to forget the importance of in-person communication and interaction.

In many ways, that night out with your friends is actually healthy for you.

As millennials we’re always talking about connecting and sharing. We’ve grown-up with the devices and tools to keep us closely linked with our friends, families and communities, but as our lives become increasingly digital, we should also make the extra effort to recognize the importance of making in-person connections.

Every Saturday my friends and I get together and have dinner, play games and watch movies. We’ve been doing it so long now that it’s become part of our routine and something everyone looks forward to each week. In another case, when we work on The Reply, Carly and I try to make a habit of meeting up regularly outside our homes. I also attend monthly writing workshops with the Writer’s Community of York Region and even co-hosted an event on blogging last week. It may just seem like a busy schedule, but making in-person connections creates a sense of community belonging — and believe it or not, it contributes to a healthy lifestyle.

Sense of community and belonging as a health factor

Being healthy is not just about access to healthcare facilities, staying fit and eating well, there are also other non-medical factors that affect our overall well-being. These factors are known as the social determinants of health; they’re recognized by national and international bodies like Health Canada and the World Health Organization. Using Health Canada as an example, the agency recognizes income and social status, social support networks, education, employment and working conditions, social environments, physical environments, personal health practices and coping skills, healthy child development, gender, and culture as social determinants of health.

From the Statistics Canada survey on Community Belonging. (Click the image to go to the study)

From the Statistics Canada survey on Community Belonging. (Click the image to go to the study)

Statistics Canada has even conducted surveys on community belonging. Research demonstrates community belonging is highly correlated with physical and mental health “even when age, socio-economic status and other factors are taken into account.” That 2008 survey (conducted over 10 years) found while over half of Canadians reported a “somewhat strong” or “very strong” sense of community belonging, (with youth aged 12 to 17 being the most likely group to report a strong sense of community), young adults between 18 and 29 were less likely to do so.

The study doesn’t provide a solid explanation for why this group has the lowest sense of strong community; but it does hypothesize about the demands of life at that age, including the fact this is the most common age for new parents.

Remember to make in-person connections

As a generation, millennials are firmly within the 18 to 29 demographic, both today and when the Statistics Canada study was conducted; so we are part of the group reporting the lowest sense of strong community and belonging. Maybe our generation’s well-documented efforts to redefine the workplace, especially when it comes to work-life balance, is just one of the ways we’re trying to get more community back into our lives. I mention it because so many millennials are working long hours or even multiple jobs, and it’s easy to forget how important it is to feel connected to the places we live.

Today we’re also inundated with technology that lets us connect with our friends and family virtually. Whether it’s a new smartphone or instant messaging app, these tools allow us to stay connected like never before, but they can’t replace in-person communication. So while we’re spending more time than ever in front of our computers, smartphones, and television screens, remember that staying connected means more than texting.

Do you feel a strong sense of community where you live or do you struggle to make connections? Share your thoughts in the comments below. We would love to hear your experiences.

by

Christopher is Co-Founder and Managing Editor at The Reply. He has a fondness for strong coffee, good books and foreign news services. When he was five years old his father helped him raise a family of chipmunks over the winter, you should ask him about it. Professionally, he’s spent time as a technology journalist, PR consultant, and freelance blogger. Christopher’s work has appeared in a lot of trade magazines you’ve probably never heard of and maybe some you have. He has a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Toronto and a certificate in Media Foundations from Humber College in Toronto.

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