As social media turns toxic, more and more focus even among the big social media platforms is being devoted to trying to figure out how we can create meaningful communities. After all we know human connection with each other is an important component of good mental health.
The key question is how do we cement intimate connections between people in a way that makes all of us feel more connected and less isolated. The future of our society will ride on how we can figure this out.
Workplace building communities also themselves have an important role to play in this need for community connection. Take for example a large office story building which can house tenants in their thousands. Apart from concierge services offered by many building facility management firms there has until recently been very little focus on the social determinants of health. And it goes way beyond yoga and fruit bowls.
What are the social determinants of health?
Our health and wellbeing are influenced by a lot more than what we can do as individuals - such as choosing not to smoke, keeping physically active, and eating well.
We know our health and wellbeing are partly determined by genetics, along with the lifestyle choices we make. We are often less aware of the impact of other forces on our health and wellbeing – such as economics, social policies, politics, the education system and even our built and natural environments. These are referred to as the ‘social determinants of health’ (SDoH).
The social determinants of health (SDOH) are the circumstances in which people are born, grow up, live, work and age, and the systems put in place to deal with illness. These circumstances are in turn shaped by a wider set of forces: economics, social policies, and politics (WHO, 2014).
Determinants are factors at a system, social or community level that affect the likelihood that people will be exposed to or develop a disease or condition.
Australian research has identified three key social determinants of mental health and wellbeing: social inclusion, freedom from violence and discrimination, and economic participation or income security.
Between one third and one half of the life expectancy gap may be explained by differences in the social determinants of health. They affect the health of people and can also influence how a person interacts with health and other services.
For example, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults are less likely to smoke if they have completed Year 12, are employed and if they have higher incomes. Additionally, higher levels of education are associated with healthier lifestyle choices and improved health literacy. Alternatively, rheumatic heart disease is associated with environmental factors such as poverty and poor living conditions.
At a workplace level, we are also beginning to see early research on the alarming increase in workplace burnout. The impact on overall health can be extreme. Whilst there is a great deal of discussion on the importance of self care to this end, few explain that self care can look different for everyone.
Workplace Chaplaincy Encourages Social Inclusion And Self Care
One new offering for workplace building communities is the revitalisation of a very old profession, chaplaincy. These days workplace chaplaincy focuses from a humanist stand point on encouraging connection, meaning and purpose through a range of building community support programs such as WELL breakfasts with speakers on self care, meetup groups and building healthy neighbourhoods. Of course chaplaincy still provides an important triage referral point for domestic and family violence support, mental health, workplace issues and more.