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(Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash)

TUCSON, Ariz. — For some, feeling a growing mass of stress weighing on their shoulders may actually be the result of poor social skills, a new study finds.

Researchers at the University of Arizona surveyed 775 American adults, aged 18 to 91, hoping to evaluate the strength of their social skills, along with their levels of stress, loneliness, and physical and mental health.

Person alone in a field
A new study finds that people who lack sound social skills are at a greater risk of suffering from loneliness, high stress, and poorer physical health. (Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash)

Defining social skills as the ability to communicate and interact with others effectively and appropriately, the researchers found that participants who were lacking in one or more related areas reported higher levels of stress and loneliness, which often translated into poorer physical and mental health.

“We’ve known for a long time that social skills are associated with mental health problems like depression and anxiety, but we’ve not known definitively that social skills were also predictive of poorer physical health,” says study author Chris Segrin, who heads the university’s Department of Communication, in a news release.

“Two variables— loneliness and stress— appear to be the glue that bind poor social skills to health,” he adds. “People with poor social skills have high levels of stress and loneliness in their lives.”

Stress had long been known as a risk factor for diminished health, but the impact of loneliness on well-being has only come into the spotlight more recently.

“We started realizing about 15 years ago that loneliness is actually a pretty serious risk for health problems,” Segrin explains. “It’s as serious of a risk as smoking, obesity, or eating a high-fat diet with lack of exercise.”

Comparing the health effects of loneliness to that of a constant search for the car keys, Segrin states that lonely people are simply “not finding what they’re looking for, and that stress of frantically searching takes a toll on them.”

While social skills can be improved through interventions, such as therapy and counseling, many don’t realize that they’re lacking in the department, he says.

Future research could look at how a lack of social skills may affect other aspects of one’s health, including the development of chronic illness.

“I want to get the word out about how valuable good communication skills are,” he emphasizes. “They will not just benefit you in your social life but they’ll benefit your physical health.”

The full study was published last month in the journal Health Communication.

About Daniel Steingold

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61 Comments

  1. CAJUAN KING says:

    That’s is also why our prisons are filled to capacity.

    Why our high school drop-out rate is so high !

    Why so many females yearn to become single mothers !

    Why so many snow flakes went into melt down with Hillary losing !

    1. Wrabble says:

      Sorry, plenty of criminals are skilled in social interaction. Consider the street-corner drug dealer for example. He can get along very well with his peers.

      1. CAJUAN KING says:

        Wrabble: address my other three comments !

      2. Wrabble says:

        Do you have an excessive need to control?

  2. Dean Winchester says:

    Kind of ironic (and sick) that social skills and interaction have dropped considerably since the invention of “social media”

  3. joede12 says:

    That’s it? I was hoping for at lease a helpful tip or 2…

  4. callmegee says:

    The article says that “many don’t realize that they’re lacking” social skills. I wonder how the study participants were judged to be lacking if many do not know they are lacking. If the study used a subjective measure as the key to the entire study, it may not be a very relevant study – that and a relatively small sample.

  5. Wrabble says:

    80% of the people are extroverts, 20% are introverts.

    The extrovert has a really hard time understanding, appreciating, or emulating the skillset of the introvert, but the introvert can learn to mimic the extrovert in order to achieve a goal.

    The world has an anti-introvert bias, despite the fact that introverts make significant contributions to civilization.

    1. Pitty says:

      Introverts are actually a good half of the world’s population. There are calm introverts and anxious introverts. Same with extroverts, calm and anxious extroverts. But if you look at anxious introverts alone, then yes, it may be around 20-25%. I highly recommend the book “Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.”. Bosses take note! Eliminate required group work ASAP! Bill Gates did his best work/inventions alone in a garage! Bill Gates falls within the calm introvert part of the spectrum.

      1. Wrabble says:

        I’m comfortable with variances in the assessments of the ratio of extroverts to introverts, although I don’t believe they represent at least half of the population in the USA. I don’t know enough about the rest of the world to make a guess.

        FWIW, Bill Gates and Paul Allen worked in the garage in Albuquerque for only a very brief time. And Gates did NOT work alone – he and Allen worked very closely together and collaborated on everything, from even before they founded their firm. Allen came up with the original name, Micro-Soft and it was Allen who introduced Gates to the Altair 8800.

        Both Allen and Gates were living in Boston when they got the contract to write Altair BASIC for MITS in Albuquerque. While Gates and Allen initially worked together in the garage, they quickly outgrew that space as they added technical staff. Within two years they had established an international office in Japan. They relocated to Bellvue, WA in order to recruit more technical staff.

        I would definitely NOT say that “Gates did his best work in the garage.” The best work from Microsoft came long after the firm had relocated.

        Gates was very big on the team approach to work, but with a painful twist.

        I used to call on Microsoft in the mid- to late-1980s to provide tech support for a computer service. While I liked almost all of my customers at the time, I hated going to Microsoft the most because the culture was so extremely competitive and people had a hard time cooperating with each other.

        Gates would assign the same project to competing teams. He would then choose the winning design and the winning team. Members of the losing team would either get split up into other groups or dismissed from Microsoft altogether.

        Because of that extreme degree of competitiveness, people were very tight-lipped about everything. Also, they didn’t know who to trust and who not to trust, as they may be working on several teams & projects at the same time. That attitude spilled over into all aspects of the company, including “back office” areas.

      2. Pitty says:

        Ugh..you’re arguing over the definition of introversion. Again, check out the book, written by a lawyer who cited valid studies.

      3. Wrabble says:

        Huh? I’m not arguing over the definition of introversion in the least! You completely missed the point of what I wrote.

        If you want to get picky, it’s completely false that Gates worked alone in the garage in Albuquerque or that he did his best work there. That was an absurd and unfounded assertion on your part.