Speaker-Series Guest Describes the Power of Community, Family and Friends

Dr. Brita Gill-Austern talked about the power of community and healthy relationships to a packed crowd on Thursday night, March 22, in the AUNE Community Room.

The reality of our society, claimed Gill-Austern, is that we are becoming more materialistic and more disconnected from each other. “As the connection between us becomes more frayed, the lonelier we become,” she said. She went on to say that loneliness is dangerous because it can lead to isolation, and all suffering—physical, emotional and psychological—is made worse by isolation. “Thirty percent of people in the U.S. live in single households,” she claimed. “That’s more than any other country in the world. We live farther apart and commute longer.”

During her presentation she described studies and writing by L.F. Berkman, David Spiegal, Harold Koenig, and Dean Ornish that demonstrate the importance of social-support groups on health. The best advice you can give a sick friend is not to take two aspirins, but to get on the phone and call you, she exclaimed. “Social isolation can increase mortality rates by 200 to 500 percent.” Simply put: family, friends and having a support group like that found in a church or synagogue can not only make you happier, but healthier, too.

What can we do? Gill-Austern recommends getting connected. “We were born to be part of a community.” She also stressed that the quality of relationships is much more important than the quantity. She applauded Cheshire County’s Vision 2020 program, calling it a “bold endeavor,” and compared it to a safety net for our community.

Learn more about Vision 2020 here.

About Dr. Brita Gill-Austern
Gill-Austern was the first speaker for AUNE’s Spring Speaker Series. She is the Austin Philip Guiles Professor of Psychology and Pastoral Theology at Andover Newton Theological School, in Newton Centre, Massachusetts.

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