Rebuilding community life post-pandemic may boost health and wellbeing

Among the COVID-19 pandemic’s cascading health consequences has been the further erosion of social ties and community life. As people look ahead to the end of the immediate health crisis, it’s important to consider how communities can be rebuilt and created, according to Tyler VanderWeele, John L. Loeb and Frances Lehman Loeb Professor of Epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. In a December 21, 2021 article in Psychology Today, he wrote that relationships, social support, and community participation can have powerful effects on health and wellbeing.

VanderWeele is director of the Human Flourishing Program and co-director of the Initiative on Health, Religion and Spirituality at Harvard University. Much of his research has focused on the health benefits of religious community participation, which can include preventing depression and suicide, extending longevity, and facilitating happiness. In a May 2021 commentary published in the American Journal of Epidemiology he and his co-authors wrote that religious service attendance could be sensitively promoted to those who positively self-identify with a religious tradition, and other forms of community life could be promoted for those who do not.

To further explore these issues, VanderWeele and colleagues have launched a new research project focused on social connectedness and belonging.

Read the Psychology Today article: How We Can Rebuild Communities After the Pandemic