Promising Approaches to Promote Social Connection

Key points

  • Social connection is critical for individual and community health.
  • There are many ways to promote and improve social connection through different settings and programs.
  • Find promising approaches to promote meaningful connections for individuals in your community.
Medical and other community representatives collaborating at a conference table.

Why it's important

  • Social connection can help reduce people's risk of chronic disease and serious illness, and promote longer, healthier lives.
  • Close connections can also create a sense of trust and resilience in communities-- creating healthier communities.

What can be done

There are many ways to promote and improve social connection through:

  • Community organizations--from social service providers to schools, non-profits and community groups.
  • Different settings and places-- from assisted living facilities to outdoors and virtual settings.
  • Incorporating efforts into existing programs.

Promising approaches

The list below offers suggestions for promising approaches that individuals and organizations can use to:

  • Reduce social isolation and loneliness.
  • Promote more frequent, high-quality relationships among individuals.
  • Note: While loneliness and isolation have been studied for many years, more research is needed to identify the most effective ways to improve social connection for specific groups, ages, and settings.





Psychological therapies

Psychological interventions that target skills to increase quality social connections.

Psychotherapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based practices, and group therapy.

Community-based exercise and physical activity

Exercise or leisure activities combined with exercise that are conducted by programs in communities.

Technology and phone-based programs

Many different technologies have been used to reduce social isolation and loneliness, especially in older adults. Phone-based programs can be used to connect older adults to training volunteers. Information and communication technologies include smartphones, specialized apps, web-based sites, social media, videoconferences, voice-activated virtual assistants.


  • Companionship weekly phone calls, friendship lines, telephone programs developed to connect people.
  • Video messaging with smart technologies; social media and internet support sites.
  • Virtual programming from local institutions, places of worship, and community centers.

Health education, skill development, support groups, and peer support

Health education and awareness programs that promote social connectedness and support or offer suicide prevention strategies.

Provider education and training for screening and referrals for patients experiencing social isolation and loneliness.

Social skills training and conflict resolution classes can improve interpersonal communication skills and build relationships.

Peer-delivered services and support groups can provide affordable options.


School connectedness

Increasing school connectedness and the feeling of belonging and engagement within the school community can have positive effects on student outcomes. This includes school programs and activities that increase social and emotional competencies, foster effective communication, and teach skills to build positive relationships.


  • Classroom practices that build strong, supportive, and safe environments.
  • School-based youth development programs, including mentorship or service-learning programs.
  • Programs that connect students to these types of programs in their communities.
  • Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model.

Intergenerational programs

Programs that increase intergenerational connections, such as those that support the development and maintenance of relationships between youth and older adults.

Tribal Practices for Wellness in Indian Country that supports tribal practices; childcare centers that are located in senior centers; paired programs for new mothers and older mothers.

Animal-based interventions

Human-animal interaction reflects a broad range of activities that include relationships and interactions between animals and humans.

  • Animal assisted therapy uses animals to achieve goals in treatment sessions.
  • Companion animals and interactions with animals that promote social interactions can also be valuable.


  • Live animal visits.
  • Pet therapy.

Built environment

The built environment is one of the key social determinants of health and refers to human-made surroundings that influence people’s behaviors and drive community health.


  • Creation, expansion, and improvements made to safely access green spaces.
  • Changes to the environment that support community gatherings.
  • Design features that increase mobility and facilitate community participation.
  • Built Environment: CDC’s Program Successes.
  • Support in medical settings.