Research Shows Acquaintances are Essential for Mental Health

Increasingly, new research shows that it’s important to have acquaintances or “weak ties” in your life. Of course, these weak ties do not replace your family or trusted friends. They are necessary over and above your closest loved ones, to ensure your maximum wellbeing.

Paula Span for the New York Times describes the research here.

“Weak ties” are the almost-accidental human connections you have every day. They happen when you greet your local barista, chat with a stranger at a dog park, interact with someone on the bus. They also include neighbors, work colleagues and religious congregants.

These ties are essential to boost your mood, reduce risk of depression, improve your mental wellbeing, and provide opportunities to remain cognitively stimulated and engaged.

Weak ties are important even if you’re very shy or an introvert. Research on this phenomenon was conducted across various personality types, and across many age groups (from college students all the way up to age 85) and all participants reported they were happier on days they had more weak tie connections.

As you get older and more tired, you may find yourself having fewer of these weak ties in your life. However, since they are crucial for your well-being, it is strongly recommended that you find opportunities to increase your weak tie connections. Researcher, Dr Toni Antonucci from the University of Michigan advised that we should all “Make the effort [to expand our social networks]…You can’t create new children at 70 but you can create new weak ties”.

Doing this isn’t difficult. Next time you receive a delivery, greet your delivery man. Next time you’re in the store, ask the teller how they are doing. Perhaps take the leap and sign up for the art class you’ve been eyeing for a while. These weak ties have more benefit than we previously thought.