Reducing Social Isolation with Positive Social Identification
Social isolation may be contained within a maladaptive ‘schema’ that is a stable model of how somebody carries out their social life.
This schema may have been learnt early in life and has the potential to interfere with normal functioning underlying mental health.
As the endurance of these schemas is one of the biggest challenges in correcting, a new study considered if correction of social isolation may be best tackled through the experience of positive social experience.
The authors defined social identification in the following way:
Social identification refers to the sense of ‘we-ness’, or psychological affiliation, that an individual feels for his or her community
They explained why this can be important to an individual:
Individuals who identify with a particular group (whether it is a sporting team, Canadians, or psychologists) feel that the group matters to them, and that they matter to the group
Furthermore, our social identities inform and define our self-concept
Some would argue even more importantly than feeling part of a group, social identification has been linked to increased health outcomes:
a growing body of work showing that social identification impacts in important ways on health and well-being. For example, social identification has been found to be associated with reduced depression
The researchers carried out 2 different studies and found some positive results.
Social identification with the therapy group was associated with a reduction in social isolation schema
That is to say that a short-term therapy intervention helped to make a change in peoples social identification.
The study also found that a community approach also helped individuals to reduce social isolation:
social identification acted indirectly to reduce social isolation schema by supporting the formation of social ties to new groups
The study concluded that overall the study demonstrated that schemas, although relatively stable over time, are not set in stone.