“Juneteenth is a holiday for everyone,” says Lita Little Giddins, assistant dean for Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion in the College of Family, Home, & Social Sciences. “As long as it is a fight that involves humanity, we are all included.”
Taking that sentiment to heart, students on the college’s Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion (DCI) committee set up an opportunity for the campus community to celebrate the holiday on the afternoon June 21. The group aimed to educate others on the meaning of Juneteenth and the symbols on the Juneteenth flag, and shared red velvet cookies.
“The majority of [passerbys] had a basic understanding of what Juneteenth is,” says Kame’e Parker, a junior from Honolulu majoring in family life and a member of the DCI committee. But she was happy to share more details. “Our history textbooks don’t teach us about marginalized groups, or if they do they skim over it. If textbooks aren’t putting a focus on these events, we need to put a focus on educating ourselves and others about these events.” In addition to details about the holiday, students shared information about rooting out more subtle forms of racism or exclusion, such as microaggressive behavior.
As for how the holiday is traditionally celebrated, Giddins explains that in the South, many people wore their Sunday best. In other states, people began to wear clothing that is significant to their cultural heritage if they know which African tribe they originate from. Many people eat red-colored food because red symbolizes loyalty, power, and the blood that was shed during enslavement. The symbolism highlights the triumph of African Americans as they were officially liberated from slavery.
Finally, Juneteenth brings to light the ongoing struggle of inclusion that African Americans feel and how we all need to be more inclusive in our communities.
“Right now, we will inform people about Juneteenth. But I hope to one day reach a point when people already know the significance so we can simply celebrate together. After all, Juneteenth is a celebration at its core of inclusion and community,” says Giddins.
Managing research projects, student assistants, teaching loads, citizenship assignments, and more can leave faculty wondering when they have a moment to do one more thing — evening if it’s as important as finding funding for their next project.
This past year the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences hired Brittany Freeze as a research development specialist. Her specific mission is to work with professors and students in the college to make finding and securing external funds a breeze.
Because of her experience receiving a PhD in Human and Social Services, Freeze is well suited to meet the needs of faculty in our college. She understands the grant process and can mentor faculty and students alike in their efforts to gain external funding.
For faculty, Brittany not only helps start the grant process, but also helps manage every detail all the way until the grant is submitted. She helps determine deadlines, appropriate formatting, eligibility requirements, and identify all necessary documents and elements for submission. She also edits grant proposals and ensures they are submitted in a timely manner.
“As I was going through all of my schooling, I didn’t know that grants were so attainable, and so I think it’s nice to know that you can use outside funds as you progress,” explains Freeze. “Students can get paid, or they can have financial support when they do research.”
With Brittany’s help, faculty and students in the college can find more funding sources to support research on social science topics they are interested in.
Between her college education, experience teaching at a preschool for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and inspiration to help others after spending time as a missionary, Jamie Easler was well positioned to pursue a master’s degree in Marriage, Family, and Human Development at BYU. She studied the effects of disabled children on family processes and researched interventions to help families navigate life with disabilities. “I definitely saw the need and the effect that having a child with a disability can have on families,” recalls Easler.
The peer-reviewed journal Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities recently published Easler’s master’s thesis that compared uplifts, respite care, stressors, and marriage quality in the parents of children with autism and Down syndrome. Easler collaborated with many faculty mentors in the School of Family Life and the McKay School of Education, who are co-authors on the article.
The most outstanding discovery had to do with uplifts. “Uplifts is a fancy term for the different positive experiences that you have in your day-to-day life and how you perceive those things…so it could be your relationship with your spouse or your relationship with your child,” explains Easler. The study found that parents who reported experiencing more uplifts had higher marital quality, even if they still had high levels of stress. Uplifts appeared to be even more beneficial to a parent’s well-being and marital quality than respite care. “It’s important how you perceive those things, and when parents (especially those of children with autism) could experience more uplifts they did report lower levels of stress and higher personal marital quality.”
Down Syndrome and Paternal Advantages
Comparing the two disabilities researched in this study, parents of children with Down Syndrome reported experiencing more frequent uplifts, while parents of children with ASD reported higher stressors and lower marital quality. These findings reaffirmed what other studies have discovered to be the ‘Down syndrome advantage.’ “We definitely didn’t want to lump all parents of children with these disabilities together because each family will have a different experience with their child, but these are the results that we’re seeing — that on average there is an advantage for families of children with Down syndrome,” says Easler.
The study also analyzed responses from both parents, allowing Easler and her co-authors to compare reported uplifts, respite care, stressors, and marital quality between mothers and fathers. Notably, Easler and her co-authors found what the paper calls, a ‘husband advantage,’ where 20% of the fathers of children diagnosed with autism consider their marriage distressed, compared with 25% of mothers. Likewise, while 10% of mothers with children who have Down syndrome reported having a distressed marriage, only 2% of fathers reported marital distress.
A New Perspective on Disability
While the study compared many variables, Easler and co-author Jeremy Yorgason agree that discovering the importance of uplifts for families with disabled children is the most impactful takeaway of the paper. “A lot of studies in the past have just focused on the stress of caring for a child with a disability and this paper comes in and says, ‘Hey the uplifts are important as well.’ And the uplifts were related to marital quality and levels of stress in both cases,” says Yorgason, who is a professor in the School of Family Life. Ideally, using this paper as a foundation, research would continue to discover how professionals can help parents of children with disabilities recognize uplifts more often.
“I think that it is important to understand that there are differences within the disabilities themselves and how that affects stress in marriage and the family, and also what professionals can do to help these parents and families. I hope to see a shift in research perspectives from always studying the negative to finding the positives that can help parents experience lower stress and hopefully improve their relationships,” adds Easler.
A Long Publishing Process
Easler presented her thesis and graduated in 2016, but that was only the starting line of having the research published in a peer-reviewed journal. “This paper went through so many edits. It took years!” jokes Easler. While the process was long and often tedious, she consistently turned to her faculty mentors for assistance and new perspectives. “All of my mentors were very helpful in every regard, and I’m still in contact with all of them. I’m so grateful to every single one of them, and it was such a collaborative and multidisciplinary effort.”
By studying different variables that affect family processes, family life scholars hope to discover solutions to family challenges. Yorgason describes it like this: “Every family faces some challenges, and sometimes those challenges involve the health of their child. For me, it’s important to try to understand what helps families to function the best that they can, given those challenging situations.”
Visit mfhd.byu.edu to learn more about the Marriage, Family, and Human Development graduate program.
The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences convocation ceremonies last Friday honored 1,321 graduates. Many BYU grads in the sea of blue caps and gowns are already making an important impact on and off campus.
Lieutenant Governor Deidre Henderson
Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson received her bachelor’s degree in history nearly three decades after first enrolling at BYU. Henderson paused her education at BYU at 18 years old after she met and married her husband, Gabe Henderson. By 28, the pair had five children together. She served in the Utah State Senate for eight years before she was elected to serve as Lieutenant Governor. In 2019, she returned to school full time with a dedication to lifelong learning. Utah Governor Spencer Cox and his wife Abby attended the ceremony in support of Lt. Gov. Henderson.
“There are a lot of women just like me in Utah,” said Lt. Gov. Henderson. “While I set aside college to raise my kids, the fire in me that wanted to finish school never died out. It was humbling, exciting, fulfilling — and frankly really, really hard — to return to BYU. But I hope other Utahns can see that it’s never too late to fulfill your ambitions.”
BYU distance runner Anna Camp-Bennett is no stranger to awards and her latest is a degree in family life. As an established member of the BYU women’s cross country and track teams, Camp-Bennett helped the cougars win the 2021 NCAA Cross Country Championship. Just months later she snagged another national title, triumphing in the NCAA women’s 1,500m race with a school record-breaking time.
US National Soccer Team member Ashley Hatch completed her degree in family life this year, capping off her outstanding contributions to the campus community. Hatch played on the BYU Women’s Soccer team from 2013-2016, where she set a school record for shots taken in a match and started in nearly every game she played. She now plays professional soccer for the Washington Spirit, assisting in the team’s 2021 National Women’s Soccer League championship victory, and as a member of the US National Soccer Team.
We’re proud of all our graduates! Spend a minute taking a look at some of their accomplishments on our graduation website.
Thursday, April 7 marked BYU’s Eighteenth Annual Mary Lou Fulton Mentored Student Research Conference. With a total of 261 posters from the nine departments in the College of Family Home and Social Sciences, the event was a major hit. Students from each department worked with faculty mentors to create engaging and informative research posters, then gained experience presenting to fellow students and other visitors.
After two years of hosting this event virtually, we were thrilled to see all our student presenters in person again. This year’s conference featured a new prize drawing for attendees who spoke to presenters about their posters, as well as students’ choice awards. All awards were presented at the luncheon after the conference.
“Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.”
– Doctrine and Covenants 58:27
Anna Monson loves life science. She loves bugs, beetles, and all the diversity of plant life, which led her to major in biology. As she progressed in her major, Monson recognized a pattern among biologists. They would often recognize problems, discuss the problems with each other, and even find answers to those problems, but they didn’t know how to actually solve those problems in their community. With this in mind, Anna chose to diversify her education and add a minor in civic engagement.
The Civic Engagement Leadership minor is designed to help BYU students learn meaningful skills and have opportunities to become engaged in their community. The minor provides students with experiential learning and mentorship to make a real difference in their local area.
“It’s an exciting way to access talents that don’t get addressed by my major directly — the biology major doesn’t care if I’m good on the phone or if I know how to talk to authorities or if I know how to write succinctly, but the civic engagement minor does, so I get to develop those talents.”
In one of her civic engagement classes, Monson worked with Community Action Services to create materials for landlords explaining the benefits and processes connected to housing choice vouchers. She was able to develop a pamphlet with her team that made Section 8 housing requirements and advantages easy to understand. “It was extremely fun and extremely cool to do the research and learn from the talents of my team members,” added Monson.
The minor requires a variety of elective courses with civic engagement connections, as well as two required courses where students are paired with community partners to complete a social action project. Through these projects, students are able to see firsthand the challenges of making a difference, as well as experience the satisfaction of engaging in their community.
Nathan Benavidez, a history major, stepped out of his comfort zone by participating in a social action project. Through the minor, Nathan had the opportunity to work with Utah County Elections to prepare a voting toolkit for city governments explaining ranked choice voting. Ranked choice voting gives citizens the opportunity to rank candidates by preference on their ballot, as opposed to voting for a single candidate. “It’s really great and allows for a bit more diversity in voting,” explained Benavidez.
Benavidez worked in a group on this project, and learned a lot about community collaboration and the value of differing opinions. “I learned that when you’re working in the community, you may be working with someone who has the same goals and aspirations as you, but you may have different visions of how you’re going to approach and accomplish your goals… working in the community means you have to work together.”
The project allowed Benavidez to learn new skills and embrace experiences he wouldn’t have had otherwise. “We got to talk to a lot of government officials, we got to present to people, and that pushed me out of my comfort zone which was really valuable to me.”
The Civic Engagement Leadership minor gives students like Monson and Benavidez the skills and experiences not only to participate in community action, but also to lead the community in issues that they really care about.
The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences has many outstanding students graduating this April. We are grateful for the hard work and scholarship of each graduating senior and the example of excellence set by the valedictorians in the college. Meet each department’s 2022 valedictorian!
Political Science: Kesley Townsend
Kesley Brooke Townsend, a political science major with a political strategy emphasis and minors in history and sociology, is the oldest child of John and Cindy Powell. She was raised in Richland, Washington, and developed a passion for U.S. political history at a young age. During her time at BYU, she conducted original research as a research fellow with the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy and worked as a research assistant for Professors Goodliffe, Preece, Pope, and Argyle. Kesley interned at TargetPoint Consulting while participating in the Washington Seminar program and worked as a political strategy advisor on a U.S. senate campaign. She was president of the BYU Women in Politics organization and a writer for the Political Review. Kesley will begin a research fellowship at TargetPoint Consulting this summer and looks forward to pursuing a Ph.D. in political science in 2023. She is incredibly grateful for the mentorship provided by BYU faculty and the continued support of her family and friends.
Geography: Kellie Haddon
Kellie Haddon is a geography major with an emphasis in global studies and minors in international development and sociology. While at BYU, Kellie had the opportunity to work as a research assistant for Brandon Plewe on the Mormon Places project during her freshman year and worked as a teaching assistant for Chad Emmett’s Political Geography class for the past two semesters. She is excited to end her time at BYU on the Multicultural Europe study abroad with Jill Knapp during spring term. This year Kellie was also heavily involved in the club Students for International Development as one of its presidents. She will begin graduate school in the fall in American University’s MA International Development program in Washington, D.C. Kellie served as a missionary in Cebu, Philippines and enjoys painting, hiking, and exploring new places. She has lived in six states but mainly grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. Kellie is grateful for her incredible family, friends, professors, and mentors for their continual support throughout her time at BYU.
Psychology: Reilly O’Coyle Reid
Reilly O’Coyle Reid, a psychology major with a minor in business, is from Henderson, Nevada. The oldest of four girls, Reilly is grateful for her loving parents and the special relationship she has with her sisters. During her time at BYU, Reilly came to appreciate the vast educational opportunities available at this university, and is always searching for the chance to research and teach. She began her undergraduate education as a business major and enjoyed learning about finance, economics, and accounting. Reilly later discovered that studying psychology would fulfill her passion of helping individuals, families, and couples heal. Her research emphasis is in clinical psychology and mental health services. She is inspired by studying psychology and is thrilled to continue her education in BYU’s Marriage and Family Therapy master’s program in August. Reilly is grateful for her professors, classmates, friends and family who have supported her as she completed her bachelor’s degree.
History: Pamela Peterson
Pamela Peterson attended BYU as a non-traditional student for the last 13 years while raising a family of six children — her greatest accomplishment. As a developing family historian, she finds the detective work of family history fulfilling and invigorating. Pam plans to pursue a career in family history with an emphasis in British research while she prepares for her Accredited Genealogist credential exams. She has loved her years at BYU and the wonderful professors she’s been privileged to learn from and associate with. Her professors and fellow students opened her eyes to new ideas, perspectives, and perceptions of peoples, cultures, and the world we live in. Her previously limited paradigm has been broadened and enhanced by her experiences and education at BYU. She is grateful for divine help and extends a sincere thank you to the BYU faculty who give their lives to teach others.
Family Life: Megan (Van Alfen) Brown
Megan (Van Alfen) Brown is a Family Studies major passionate about helping, educating, and healing individuals and families. She is a Wheatley Scholar and received multiple awards for her educational achievements. She worked as a teaching assistant and a research assistant with professors in the School of Family Life at BYU for several years. She is passionate about researching gender, body image, mental health, and sexuality and hopes to center her career in those fields. She will be attending graduate school in the fall at Brigham Young University for a master’s degree in Marriage, Family, and Human Development. She has plans to pursue a PhD to become a professor to educate students and families about complex topics that deserve increased attention. In her free time, she loves spending time with her husband, being outdoors, catching up with friends and building her floral design business.
Anthropology: Leeann Whiffen
Leeann Whiffen, an anthropology major, was born and raised on a cattle ranch in rural Idaho. She spent much of her youth helping her dad tend to the cows, swath hay, and irrigate fields. She is grateful for those experiences that have helped shape who she is today. Leeann and her husband Sean have been married for 25 years, and they have three sons. She has the special opportunity to be graduating from BYU with her son, Clay. Her husband and sons have always supported her educational goals. On one especially challenging day, she noticed a note in her chemistry notebook that said, “Good luck, Mom!” Leeann completed research under the supervision of Dr. Greg Thompson, and they co-authored an article examining physician-patient interactions that was published in the health care journal Qualitative Health Research. Leeann is deeply appreciative for her professors who have given her invaluable tools that she will carry forward. Leeann completed pre-medical coursework and plans to attend medical school.
Sociology: Hannah Dixon
Hannah Dixon grew up in American Fork, Utah. She served a full-time mission in Poland, then returned to BYU, where she majored in sociology with a minor in English. Hannah is graduating with University Honors. During her time here, she relished research opportunities. She participated in a Ballard Center Social Impact Project, a research assistantship in the Sociology department, worked with the BYU Antiracism Project, completed class projects, and more. Other highlights of her BYU experience include involvement in the Honors program, volunteer and mentorship opportunities with first-year students, long hours in the library, and hiking to the Y more than 100 times. Hannah is grateful for the mentors, family, colleagues, and friends who have made her time here fulfilling and she credits their examples of grit, optimism, and encouragement for getting her to this point. She looks forward to continuing her studies at BYU this fall as a student in the sociology master’s program.
Economics: Alexander Johnson
Alex Johnson is a senior graduating in economics and mathematics, with minors in Spanish and Portuguese. During his time at BYU, Alex realized that he possesses a love for learning and solving problems. Alex initially became interested in economics through Dr. Kearl’s Econ 110 class, learning to use a mathematical and logical framework to better understand the world. Through his experience in economics, Alex developed a passion for statistics and mathematical modeling, using and analyzing data to learn about the world in an economics framework. Seeing the strength of mathematics in such an applied context, Alex decided to supplement this growing passion for applied modeling by deciding to also study mathematics as one of his majors. This preparation allowed Alex to continue his education into the future with plans to study Applied Mathematics in a master’s program. Alex would like to express his sincere gratitude for all his professors, family, friends, and classmates, all of whom have been integral in his learning so far.
As the school year nears its end, we’re all feeling it — the nervousness before finals, the stress and pressure to do well, the fear of what comes next. These anxious feelings aren’t exclusive to students; nearly 20% of American adults have an anxiety disorder and many others experience issues with anxiety each year, even if they don’t have an anxiety disorder.
This month’s “Picture a Social Scientist” activity focused on those who have mental health challenges, particularly anxiety. The “Picture an Anxious Social Scientist” event on March 31 began with a presentation on biofeedback from BYU’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). Biofeedback helps us respond to our body’s stress signals before they become too intense and to take action to relieve stress throughout the day before it impacts our ability to complete our tasks or handle our emotions.
The biofeedback presentation was followed by a panel of professors with different types of anxiety. Alyssa Banford Witting in the School of Family Life, Sam Hardy in the Psychology Department, and Scott Sanders in the Sociology Department put themselves in an anxiety-inducing situation to help students see how someone with anxiety can be successful as a social scientist. They addressed questions such as, “What was your experience being diagnosed?” and “What do you recommend for students who may have these feelings but have not been diagnosed?” as well as “How has anxiety been a superpower in your career?”
The professors shared some of the tools they use to manage their anxiety. Sanders suggested, “Develop self-love now, develop self-care now… Do it now because it’s so much harder when you’re in those troughs.” Deep breathing is another helpful tool that was taught during the biofeedback presentation. Hardy’s tools include antidepressant medication, therapy, and support groups. His self-care includes Diet Dr. Pepper and hobbies like cooking, playing with dogs, and jamming out on drums in the basement. He also is mindful of nutrition and exercise, reads self-help books, and makes spiritual practices a priority.
Banford Witting encouraged students not to go it alone if they are feeling anxious. “Seek help, there’s no reason to suffer.” When looking for help, remember that your professors are there for you and you are not alone in your struggle. “It’s common enough that it’s okay. You’ll have some friends in the mental illness business… Everybody has anxiety to some degree,” added Hardy.
Sanders said to manage anxiety step by step, day by day, or even moment by moment. Describing his process to overcome anxious feelings he said, “What can you do in that moment? Maybe it’s a breath, a class period, a day. What does it look like and what can I do to get through that moment?”
Whatever your experiences with anxiety may be, create boundaries for yourself, find your toolkit, and keep navigating the challenges that come your way. There will be many who can relate and help, as well as those who understand and support.
The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences monthly “Picture a Social Scientist” events will return in the fall. With the goal of fostering belonging, each event will feature inspiring social science professionals to whom students can relate. Future events will explore themes such as neurodiversity, being a woman, managing a dual-career family, and other groups that are underrepresented in the social sciences. Students can expect to gain new perspectives and develop insights on how to press forward with their own ambitions.
Learn more about “Picture a Social Scientist” here.
Learn more or schedule an appointment with BYU CAPS.
This Friday night’s activity, “Night at the Museums” gives students the opportunity to visit all five BYU museums (The Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum, Education in Zion Museum, The Museum of Art, The Museum of Paleontology, and The Museum of Peoples and Cultures) on one evening for refreshments, music, activities, and the chance to solve clues for a prize. Each museum will dazzle participants with interesting facts and thought-provoking displays, but a brand new exhibit at The Museum of Peoples and Cultures is sure to be an eye-catcher.
Greenstone Forgeries on Display
“Mayan Greenstone” displays artifacts from the museum’s vast collection of Mesoamerican greenstone artifacts. What makes these particular artifacts so intriguing? Many are forgeries.
The exhibit highlights the research done last year by former BYU student Chloe Burkey and anthropology postdoctoral fellow Marion Forest. Burkey and Forest worked to systematically authenticate the collection, using an innovative collection of techniques to spot each forgery.
The new exhibition gives visitors the opportunity to try their hand at spotting the fakes while also appreciating the ancient craftsmanship of the genuine artifacts. Museum visitors will be impressed, not only by the relics, but also by the experiential learning opportunities available to students through the Museum of Peoples and Cultures.
A Student-Led Exhibit
Nearly every aspect of each exhibit at the museum is produced by BYU students. “All of the research is done by students, the displays are designed by students, even the labels for the artifacts are made by students,” explained museum director Paul Stavast.
One student gaining valuable experience at the museum is Hannah Smith, a history major with minors in art history and anthropology. Hannah plans to work in museums in the future, and her experience as an exhibit designer at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures has given her invaluable skills for her future career.
“Along with the researchers and the director I’ve gotten to pick objects, write text, choose graphics, play with the layout of the exhibit… paint, build some walls!” joked Hannah as she described her role in the new exhibit in an interview. “I’ve learned more through this opportunity than I have in a lot of classes. It’s helped me build skills for any job and helped me really figure out what I want to do.”
Learning Through Stories
Hannah started at the museum last April as an intern, unsure of what direction she wanted her future career to take. She gained confidence by helping with the “Utah Valley” exhibit and by talking to the director of the museum. She enjoyed the opportunity and has been working at the museum ever since.
Smith began studying history and anthropology because she wants to tell human stories. “I feel like the social sciences are so special because it’s all about people. That’s what interests me the most is the story behind things, and the social sciences are all very story driven fields,” said Smith, explaining how stories tie together all of her passions of history, anthropology and art history.
Immerse yourself in the stories of the past at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures and other BYU museums at “Night at the Museums” on March 25.
To learn more about the Museum of Peoples and Cultures visit mpc.byu.edu.
We all know what things can kill us: smoking, drinking alcohol, not exercising, having an unhealthy diet, not getting enough sleep, the list goes on and on. But did you know that being lonely is just as risky?
In February of 2020, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) declared, “Social isolation is a major public health concern.” Just one month later, the coronavirus pandemic forced people worldwide to deliberately isolate and distance themselves socially.
Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, professor of psychology at BYU, studies the power of social connection on mental and physical health. Her research has built a body of evidence proving exactly what NASEM stated: that society should be very concerned about the risks of isolation and loneliness.
“Loneliness is associated with increased death by 26%. Conversely, another meta-analysis that included 148 studies, examined the protective effects of being socially connected and we found that social connection increases our odds of survival by 50%,” said Holt-Lunstad as she presented the 29th annual Martin B. Hickman Outstanding Scholar Lecture.
Her research also reveals that social isolation and loneliness are associated with greater incidents of major psychological, cognitive, and physical morbidities. Holt-Lunstad’s research is now focused on the relationship between the physical symptoms of loneliness and harmful inflammation.
The global pandemic exacerbated this already urgent health concern. Holt-Lunstad described it like this: “Loneliness was prevalent prior to the pandemic, but increased in prevalence and severity over the pandemic.” Individuals living alone and older adults seemed to be most isolated, but longitudinal studies showed that the pandemic increased feelings of loneliness among most people.
We take certain aspects of physical health seriously because there are national health guidelines. Recommendations from experts for how to eat, how often to exercise, how much sleep we need, etc. are taught in schools and by doctors when we get check-ups.
So if loneliness and isolation present serious mortality risks, why don’t we hear about it more often? Why aren’t there school programs like D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) teaching kids about the risks of isolation?
C.S. Lewis stated, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which gives value to survival.” Lewis’ point of view describes how many people, including public policy makers, perceive loneliness. Social connection can seem more like a bonus than a necessity, but meaningful connection with others can be just as important for mental and physical well being as drinking enough water.
Loneliness is our body giving a biological signal that we need to socially reconnect. Just like hunger and thirst remind us to eat and drink, loneliness reminds us how vital meaningful relationships are for our health.
Holt-Lunstad and her colleagues are working to find widespread solutions to the loneliness and isolation epidemic through public policy and regulation, but she emphasizes the importance of small actions that can improve social connection.
She and her colleagues ran a study during the pandemic in which nearly 4,500 participants were randomly assigned challenges to connect socially. Participants were told to perform one act of kindness for a neighbor once a week for four weeks. The study found that when individuals actively chose to reach out to neighbors in a positive way, they became significantly less lonely, social anxiety was reduced, neighborhood quality improved, and conflict reduced.
The results of the study showed that a social connection intervention can be performed with no resources or training; anyone can take action and improve the social connection in their life.
Holt-Lunstad concluded with an invitation: “All I ask is that you take a moment to do something kind for someone else, because our evidence shows that one of the best ways to help yourself is to help others.”
The Hickman Lecture is presented annually by a faculty member who received the Martin B. Hickman Scholar Award for being a distinguished faculty member whose professional contributions to the college emulate excellence.Learn from previous outstanding faculty members here.