National Public Radio reported that talking to strangers makes people happier. On December 2, 2014, correspondent Shankar Vedantam described a study by University of Chicago psychologists Nick Epley and Juliana Schroeder. They randomly assigned people on the bus to either sit in silence or start a conversation with a stranger next to them. Before the experiment most of the subjects said they would be happier if they commuted in silence. “But on average people reported being happier making-new-friendswhen they talked. And it wasn’t just the chatterboxes. It included people who were more introverted.”

Why I love this study

I believe that many of us underestimate our need for social contact. Put another way, we overestimate our satisfaction with isolation. Vendantam goes on to reinforce a key Beer and Peanuts concept: “I have to say in defense of Epley, that there’s a lot of research suggesting that social connections are important to our well-being and mental health. So men, for example, who lose their partners are more likely to die sooner than men who are in relationships, or patients suffering from serious mental disorders seem to fare better when they have rich social lives. And therapists and political scientists have been warning us for many years about the risk of bowling alone. So many of us think that strangers will bore us or bother us when in fact we are deeply social animals. And these social connections seem to press buttons inside our heads that make us happier (emphasis added).”

People need people

One of my goals is to help people have  more satisfying retirement and this story gives a small window into the reality that for most of us, an active social life is key to satisfaction.

You can read or listed to the entire report here:

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