Distortions: Social connection and health

When the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) released its so called Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidance for public consultation in August, I was irritated. I had seen this sort of temperance rhetoric before and to no good end, despite the good intentions of the advocates. I wrote about this a few days back. So I began to craft a policy brief based upon my reading of the report.

In September I attended a conference in Belgium where I met a British colleague I had known only through email and Zoom before that time. He is a physician, a non-drinker (recovering alcoholic), and a community developer. When I mentioned the new guidance, without even getting into my concerns, he began spitting nails:

“They’re completely ignoring the social connection research!” he exclaimed, and followed it up with a comment that I have used repeatedly since then: “strong social connections are more protective of your health even than quitting smoking!”

When I say that to people, some think I’m advocating smoking (talk about missing the point). I am not. I, and my British colleague, and the researchers who have been looking at social connection for well over a decade, are using smoking cessation, something that is generally accepted to have tremendous health benefits, as a point of comparison. If something is even more protective of your health than quitting an activity as fraught as smoking, it must be worth paying close attention to. Right? Dang right.

Unfortunately, I am not the best person to dig into the research. fortunately, someone much better at this than I recently published an article in The Conversation discussing the CCSA “guidance” and the problems of ignoring social connection in a wonderfully articulate and well referenced essay.

I’ll stop writing this now and let you read it here.

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