In early March, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a disturbing finding. After just one year of battling the COVID-19 pandemic, the global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a whopping 25%. Say what you will about whether shutdowns and stay-at-home orders were effective, one thing we know for sure is that they had a negative impact on mental health.
A landmark study published in Science more than 30 years ago found that a lack of social connection is more harmful to our health than obesity, smoking or high blood pressure. Strong social connections improve longevity and even strengthen the immune system.
"People who feel more connected to others have lower levels of anxiety and depression," writes Dr. Emma Seppala in "Connectedness & Health: The Science of Social Connection" on the website of Stanford Medicine's Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education website. "Moreover, studies show they also have higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others, are more trusting and cooperative and, as a consequence, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them. In other words, social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being."
Now that the pandemic is settling down (fingers crossed!) into what I like to call "live-with-it mode" and folks are (hopefully) starting to get back out to their favorite haunts, recreation, sports and fitness facilities stand poised to offer us what we need most: connection.
Walking along the trail at the local park, we smile and say hi to our neighbors. In the stands at a Minor League ballgame, we spend as much time chatting with our friends and family as we do watching the action. From the health club where we join a group workout to the soccer field where we watch our kids play ball, from the pool where we meet up to swim some laps to the aquatic park where the kids play together as the parents catch up at poolside, these facilities help us make those connections.
Increasingly, that's intentional, as architects, engineers and planners seek new ways to help us connect with ourselves, our planet and one another. In this issue, we are focused on facility design, and as you page through the stories, you'll find that overarching theme of connection throughout. Maybe you'll even find a little inspiration to find new ways to foster connection at your own facility.
See you out there!