Social connections: How much is enough?

Supportive and positive social connections are important to our health, but too much social interaction can sometimes be stressful. How do you know the right balance for you?

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Social connections with others are an important part of sustaining good mental health. Having a supportive network of family and friends helps us survive and thrive during times of stress or difficulty. It is also important to recognize that too much social interaction can sometimes be overwhelming and lead to feelings of stress and anxiety. So how do we know how much is too much when it comes to our social circle and mental health?

Everyone has unique needs. Some people flourish on tons of social interaction and may need a larger social circle to feel content. Other people may favor a smaller, more intimate group of friends. Consider your own needs and preferences when it comes to your social interaction.

Think about quality over quantity of your social connections. Having a large social circle does not mean guaranteed good mental health. This is especially true if the relationships within that circle are shallow or unhealthy. On the other hand, having a smaller social circle of close, supportive relationships can be much more beneficial for mental health.

An American Perspectives Survey found Americans reported the following:

  • 49% have three or fewer close friends.
  • 36% have four to nine close friends.
  • 13% have ten or more close friends.
  • 13% have no close friends.

In addition, think about what type of social interaction you are engaging in. Spending time with supportive friends and family in person may be more beneficial to your mental health versus spending most of your interactions on social media. According to an issue brief from the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion, people who spend two or more hours on social media tend to report more isolation, show signs of depression and report an increase in fear of missing out. 

The key is to pay attention to your own needs and preferences when it comes to social interaction. If you feel overwhelmed or stressed by too much social interaction, it's okay to take a step back and focus on self-care. This might mean spending more time alone, or seeking out more supportive, high-quality relationships.

In conclusion, social connections are an important part of supporting good mental health. However, the amount of social interaction that is ideal for each person will differ based on individual needs and preferences. It's important to focus on high-quality, supportive relationships and pay attention to your own feelings and needs when it comes to social interaction.

Michigan State University Extension offers a variety of classes to assist people interested in improving healthy relationships. RELAX: Alternatives to Anger and Stress Less with Mindfulness are two educational programs series (multiple lessons) that focus on building skills for health relationships and reducing stress. If you are interested in learning more or signing up for a class, fill out our self-referral form.

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