Episode 90: Community Medicine: How to Fight Loneliness to Live A Longer Healthier Life

In today’s episode, Dr. Lisa and Dr. Toni are discussing how community medicine is the wave of the future and often the missing link in your health care. You need connection and community to support your well-being and stick to healthy habits. Your kids also need community now more than ever. 

How does loneliness affect your health?

Loneliness and weak social connections:

  • associated with a reduction in your lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day
  • can shorten your lifespan by 8 years!

Harvard research suggests feelings of social isolation are on the rise and that those hardest hit are older teens and young adults.

The results of an American study conducted in October 2020 showed 36 percent of people reported feeling lonely frequently, almost all the time or all the time in the prior four weeks, compared with 25 percent who recalled experiencing serious issues in the two months prior to the pandemic. 61 percent of those aged 18 to 25 reported high levels.

Also in the US, June data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 63 percent of young people reported experiencing substantial symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

  • “Being socially connected needs to be seen as much a part of a healthy lifestyle as eating right and exercising.” Julianne Holt-Kunstad

Stanford University’s Centre on The Demography and Economics of Health and Aging found that lonely people were more likely to:

  • Have extended hospital stays
  • Need more expensive treatments
  • Need support of skilled nursing facilities instead of in-home rehabilitation

Participants who were socially isolated had a 50% higher risk of death

Other negative outcomes of social isolation and loneliness demonstrated in research are:

  • 26% Higher risk of premature death
  • 29% increased risk for heart disease
  • 32% increased risk for stroke
  • 40% increased risk for Alzheimer’s
  • 25% increased risk for cancer


  • affects 25% to 60% of older Americans, almost as prevalent as obesity
  • puts millions of Americans 50 and over at risk of poor health

Your social connections at age 50 predict your health status at age 80

How? Epigenetics!

Changes in the expression of hundreds of your genes can occur as a function of physical and social environment you inhabit.

Research indicates that perceived social isolation and loneliness heightens sensitivity to social threats and motivates the renewal of social connections, but it can also impair: 

  • executive functioning 
  • sleep 
  • mental well-being
  • physical well-being

The more isolated people are, the less happy they are, and brain function declines as well as physical health. Together, these effects contribute to higher rates of morbidity and mortality in lonely older adults.

What impact does connection and community have in your life?

Online groups are available to provide support to achieve a common goal during the pandemic while in person programs may not be available. Some examples include Wild Collective, Landmark Worldwide, Peloton, Alcoholics Anonymous, various book clubs

Habits are contagious!

  • Your habits are influenced by your community:
    • happiness, smoking cessation, suicide risk 
  • Happiness increases by:
    • 15% if you have a happy friend
    • a further 10% if their friend is happy

You may have the tendency to thrive and maintain a healthy lifestyle with the help and accountability of others. Sometimes it’s hard as a busy mom to generate that energy on your own.

For more info on habits, listen to Episode 72: Hard Habits to Break? How to Use The Four Tendencies For Lasting Change

Best-selling book The Daniel Plan:

  • Church congregation in California
  • Pastor couldn’t maintain a healthy weight
  • Enlisted help of Dr. Mark Hyman MD and Dr. Daniel Amen, MD
  • Met in small groups every wednesday night to introduce new behaviours and help each other stick to them
  • 15,000 congregation lost 250,000 pounds

The Look AHEAD trial, a diabetes prevention lifestyle program which encompassed a multi- disciplinary behavioural-focused intervention. The Intensive support group participants met:

  • Small groups of 10-20
  • 3 meetings per month for the first 6-months
  • 2 meetings per month between 6-months to 1yr
  • 1 meeting per month up to 8yrs

In addition to these monthly group sessions, subjects had individual sessions with an‘interventionist’ (which included registered dietitians, psychologists, and exercisespecialists) every month in person, with a second contact by phone or email 2-weeks thereafter

After 8yrs of follow-up, 39% of people maintained 10% reduction of body weight and 65% had maintained over 5% reduction of body weight

Dr. Jeffrey Geller:

  • Received funding from CDC and approval to research group medicine
  • Started a group for managing diabetes (in disguise for addressing loneliness)
  • Outcomes included:
    • Loneliness improved
    • Depression improved
    • Participants lost weight
    • Blood pressure was reduced by 5-10 points
    • HbA1C was reduced
  • Now, Dr. Geller has groups for heart disease, prenatal care, hypertension, depression, obesity, addiction

How do you foster connection and community in your life?

  • Create an habits accountability group
  • Become an active member in a positive, supportive Facebook group
  • Join a gym, yoga studio, meditation studio that fosters community
  • Sign up for a community class: for sport, knitting, cooking, gardening, etc..
  • Join or start a local or online book club

What is the Wild Collective about?

  • International and revolutionary women’s health community initiative 
  • Recipe for connection and community; remedy for loneliness; instruction manual for your body, health and lab testing
  • Actionable items to start to up-level your health, mindset and relationships
  • Empowered health education to be your own health advocate (and for your family), know which questions to ask and which lab tests to ask for
  • Learn in-depth about digestion, detox, thyroid, hormones, blood sugar/nutrition

Spots are limited to 20 women to establish connection and allow enough time for women to share

Beka describes Wild Collective:

“My favourite part of the Collective is the community created amongst the women there. There was almost an immediate feeling of safety and community that was created and it makes each session something to look forward to. Hearing other women’s experiences and thoughts really helps you work through your own thoughts and feelings. The info about our bodies is so insightful as well and every session I’m challenged to “up” my health game in both small and large areas.”

Dr. Lisa’s next Wild Collective begins again in September. Sign up for the next info session at wildcollectivetoronto.com

Dr. Toni’s next HypnoBirthing info session for expecting parents looking to trust their instincts and their body during labour and birth is September 13 and 27. Join her at https://www.hypnobirthingcalgary.com/register    

Today’s Mama Must Have:

Dr. Lisa is a big fan of the book The Happiness Equation by Neil Pasricha.

Dr. Toni loves the book Breath by James Nestor. You check out more about the book and breathing techniques HERE.

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Stay safe and healthy everyone!

Disclaimer: The information provided in this presentation is not meant to replace treatment with a licensed health care practitioner. It is for informational purposes only. Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed health care professional to determine which treatments are safe for you.