The Importance of Creating an Inclusive Society for Everyone
How a society can benefit from the inclusion and acceptance of all its members
The interpersonal need to achieve a high level of social acceptance from others is one that is inherent in almost every human being. It is well known that experiences of social acceptance are linked to high levels of psychological happiness and the promotion of positive mental well-being among humans, particularly those in the adolescent stages of development.
One study among a group of high school students in Turkey found that feelings of social acceptance and social connectedness are positively correlated to high levels of subjective mental well-being, a finding that demonstrates the undisputed importance of social acceptance experiences in the promotion of positive human mental health.
However, an understanding of the effects of social acceptance experiences on subjective well-being is not restricted to research studies reviewing the nature of social acceptance itself. Rather, the impact of social acceptance experiences on mental well-being can even be understood in literature reviews examining the impact of social rejection experiences on the same phenomena.
In opposite effect to social acceptance experiences, social rejection is understood to negatively affect the development of an individual’s psychological well-being and contribute to the onset of a series of common mental health problems.
An Israeli study at the University of Haifa discovered that social rejection experiences among adolescents are linked to higher levels of depressive, post-traumatic and social avoidance symptoms as compared to adolescents who experience no such exclusion.
It is also widely accepted that social rejection experiences can impair an individual’s level of self-esteem. One study in the field of neuroscience found that participants who were given negative feedback regarding their performance on an interview showed greater activity in the regions of the brain associated with rejection experiences and reported lower levels of self-esteem as compared to those who received positive feedback.
However, while no increases in self esteem were observed among participants who received positive feedback, these findings suggest that social acceptance experiences can encourage individual autonomy over ones own self esteem and thus enable individuals to exercise a level of control that increases their own self esteem levels.
However, there are further benefits associated with social acceptance experiences that extend beyond improved mental well-being that are often neglected in relevant discussions, particularly those which concern society at large.
This story will examine many of these overlooked benefits and reviews of potential interventions to improve societal-wide levels of social acceptance will be evaluated and discussed in relation to key research evidence.
Social Acceptance Experiences and Adolescent Academic Success
Considering the scope of research into the effects of social acceptance experiences on many features of adolescent life, many of these studies have focused on the influence of these experiences on an adolescent’s academic attainment. It has been well established that adolescents who receive a high level of social acceptance from peers typically achieve better academic outcomes than their rejected counterparts.
A Chinese study across several Chinese schools found that social acceptance experiences among this age group can successfully mediate the influence of pro-social behaviors on academic-related achievements. Therefore, while the performance of pro-social behaviors is critical to the attainment of strong academic outcomes among adolescents, social acceptance experiences can independently contribute to improved academic outcomes for those adolescents who have previous experiences of social rejection.
Furthermore, adolescent experiences of social acceptance can also facilitate an increase in acts of pro-social behavior towards other members within adolescent peer groups, a major implication for the creation of inclusive adolescent school learning environments.
Research has shown that adolescents who are accepted by their peers are more likely to exhibit inclusive behaviors toward other adolescents, thus cultivating an environment that generates a multiplication of pro-social behaviors that fosters social inclusion of others in their relevant peer groups. However, such a transcendence of social acceptance among adolescents can only function through equal distribution of its emotional contagion.
One relevant study found that equal distributions of social acceptance experiences in adolescent school classrooms are associated with low levels of overall mental health problems among such class groups.
However, research findings linking social acceptance experiences to pro-social behaviors not only reveal major implications for pro-social behaviors alone but also anti-social behaviors too.
Social Rejection and Anti-Social Behavior
Just as social acceptance experiences can promote pro-social behaviors among adolescents, so too is the inverse of this statement true, social rejection experiences can encourage anti-social or delinquent behaviors among adolescents either in the form of bullying, aggression, or in some extreme instances, violence.
This truth has drawn considerable attention to the outbreak of mass shootings that have occurred in a small, but a substantial number of American schools throughout the United States. It is estimated that social rejection experiences account for roughly 50% of school shootings in the US, the majority of which are committed by those of adolescent age.
The issue of gun control is a topic that will continue to remain the subject of intense debate in American society, but these statistics do highlight an indisputable need for social acceptance behaviors to become common practice in educational settings to reduce the future likelihood of additional mass shootings occurring in American schools until restrictions on public ownership of weapons and firearms are enforced.
Experts at the University of North Carolina have proposed six key prevention strategies for interventions that focus entirely on the promotion of enhanced levels of social acceptance in school environments.
These strategies include strengthening of school attachment, reducing social aggression, breaking down codes of silence, establishing screening and intervention protocols for troubled and rejected students, bolstering human and physical security and increasing communication within educational facilities and between educational facilities and local resources.
If utilized to great effect, these strategies serve a strong potential to significantly reduce future incidences of adolescent anti-social, aggressive and violent behaviors within school contexts.
Social Acceptance in the Workplace
There is an abundance of available research literature into the effects of social acceptance experiences on a multitude of work-related factors. The cultivation of social acceptance experiences in a variety of workplace environments is understood to produce beneficial effects relating to an employee’s work productivity, the ethos with which they conduct their work, and their overall satisfaction in their respective work field.
Occupational research in the UK found that degrees of social acceptance experiences in the workplace can, in addition to facilitating high levels of work-related performance, influence the outcome of many important elements related to work satisfaction such as the status of an employee’s mental health, their perceived level of control over their line of work and the extent to which they handle stressful situations in their relevant work domain.
Moreover, other methods of scientific inquiry have noted the influence of social acceptance experiences on the efforts and effective contributions of employees in collaborative work tasks. One relevant study found that employees whose levels of social acceptance experiences were high in frequency exhibited more altruistic behaviors towards co-workers and worked more proactively with other team members during collaborative team projects compared to employees who experienced no such degrees of acceptance.
Moreover, organizational structures that compose an element of workplace diversity that compromises a communication and work type of acceptance and tolerance for social and cultural differences among employees can increase the productivity and, consequently, the amount of profits accumulated by an organization from the co-operative labour of its workforce.
Therefore, any organizational intervention type that aims to promote the frequency of social acceptances experiences among employees and incorporate structures of diversified inclusion that are tolerated among its workers can expand the profitability of an organization as a direct consequence of subsequent increases in harmonious and co-operative labour in the workplace.
In conclusion of this section, all of the above evidence emphasizes the partial role of social acceptance experiences in improving and creating better standards of work environments for organizational employees and thus should feature as a key element in relevant intervention designs.
Social Acceptance and Rejection Experiences on Physical Health
The mental health links between social acceptance and rejection experiences have been well emphasized in research domains but the connections to physical health have been largely overlooked. Research in Switzerland has shown that socially isolated or rejected adults reported lower levels of perceived physical health than those identified as being socially well integrated and this finding demonstrated a pattern of consistency in all age groups.
Additionally, these same adults were also identified as being more likely to engage in health-damaging behaviors, likely inspired by their isolation, that can only serve to exacerbate their pre-existing health inequalities as compared to their socially integrated counterparts.
Therefore, the findings of this study serve as both concrete evidence for the role that social rejection experiences play in contributing to the development of physical health problems and the role that social acceptance experiences perform in promoting strong physical health.
However, findings linking social rejection experiences to physical health are not restricted to research reviews entailing a broad collection of quantitative data from the general population but have also been well documented in neuroscientific experimentation. An experimental review of participants who were exposed to a social rejection experience in the form of viewing images of ex-partners who had previously separated from them showed high levels of activity in regions of the brain associated with physical pain.
Therefore, the immediate aftermath of social rejection experiences demonstrates a simultaneous capability to elicit physical pain as well as social pain, a phenomenon that can have long-term implications for the physical well-being of socially rejected individuals.
Furthermore, an understanding of the link between social rejection and physical pain can be examined in the scientific literature that highlights the effects of pain-killing medication on reducing social pain that is caused by experiences of social rejection.
Acetaminophen, an antibiotic that reduces physical pain, demonstrates the same potential to mitigate the effects of social pain in following a previous episode of social rejection. Research at the University of Kentucky found that doses of acetaminophen usage among socially rejected participants were responsible for significant reductions in self-reported social pain and these reports were consistent with observed neurological activities as documented during examinations of brain scans.
However, it is worth noting that while the social pain that is connected to social rejection experiences can be alleviated through acetaminophen medication, interventions that enable experiences of social acceptance are much more desirable courses of action to implement in the promotion of achieving optimal health outcomes for as many individuals as possible, as these measures function as a preventive strategy in the development of physical health problems.
Note: If you are currently experiencing episodes of social rejection and wish to obtain access to acetaminophen medication to reduce the amount of social pain caused by your rejection experiences, please consult with a doctor or a local GP beforehand to ensure that you receive the appropriate level of medical advice for your condition.
Understanding Social Acceptance in a Societal Framework
There is a universal consensus that social inclusion is integral to the functioning of a society that prospers in all of its social, political and economic dimensions. However, the rise of uncertainties around its definition has generated extensive debate in the political and academic spheres and its meaning has been the subject of differing interpretations among politicians and academics alike.
In simplifying its definition, The World Group Bank describes social inclusion as “the process of improving the terms on which individuals and groups take part in society — improving the ability, opportunity, and dignity of those disadvantaged on the basis of their identity.” Therefore, according to this definition, participation of individuals in societal projects is inequal in proportion and research initiatives have devoted significant efforts to devise intervention strategies that increase opportunities for social inclusion among socially disadvantaged persons.
Some efforts focus exclusively on increasing an individual’s economic participation in society’s work, with a particular emphasis on supporting those living in conditions of extreme poverty. Research analyzing the global impact of 80 economic inclusion programs has highlighted their effective incorporations in improving the economic circumstances under which economically deprived individuals live.
The central aspects of economic inclusion policies typically entail an expansion of opportunities for disadvantaged members to participate in voluntary or paid types of work. Generally, individuals participating in employment, irrespective of profession, often experience higher levels of happiness and subjective mental well-being compared to those of an unemployed status.
However, increases in the status of an unemployed person’s mental health can be supported through participation in voluntary or community service work types, a finding that is largely attributable to the role that volunteering serves in increasing the sense of contribution and connection individuals feel towards their communities.
Other aspects of economic inclusion policy focus on expanding and increasing access to educational programs as part of a series of efforts to increase an individual’s level of societal economic participation.
A 2012 South African report details many of the issues associated with unequal access to education programs and offers key policy suggestions for expanding and equalizing its distributable inclusion for as many socially excluded children in South Africa, particularly those of black race or low socioeconomic status.
Therefore, it should be interpreted without surprise that inclusive education programs possess the potential to reduce the level of income inequality between the most affluent and poorest members of society, a trend that has been well observed in the continent of Africa as a whole.
As such, any programs that aim to reduce rates of poverty exist as one of many intervention types to increase an individual’s level of social inclusion within society and will likely continue to feature as a key component of social inclusion policy.
Another critical aspect of social inclusion policy concerns the extent to which individuals are able to participate in the political affairs of their society. It is widely accepted that members of a society who are restrained from affecting political processes, as is typically the case in communist or dictatorship regimes, are more likely to experience mental health issues that encompass a shared feeling of lacking control over all aspects of their lives compared to those living under more democratic systems.
The most notable examples illustrating this truth can be understood in historical examinations of the influence of both left-wing Russian Soviet Union and right-wing Nazi German authoritarian movements during the First and Second World Wars respectively.
However, the only available research literature that has attempted to explain the causal nature of dictatorship regimes on public mental health compiles a series of reviews in Egypt that document the widespread distress instilled by the authoritarian rule of one of its Former Presidents, Hosni Mubarak.
Mubarak’s dictative framework of policy implementation was largely inspired by an excessive desire to exercise power and control over the lives of all Egyptian citizens. Consequently, Mubarak’s authoritarian style of leadership contributed to high levels of corruption and poverty that were responsible for public feelings of devastation and distress that often translated into political violence and unrest between government-assisted police authorities and locally established gang operations.
Much of the distress experienced by Egyptian people under this regime comprised a common emotion of lacking a sense of control or achievement over their lives, an emotion that would reinforce a historically pre-existing need to escape across Egyptian borders into other neighboring countries that promised a provision of refuge and greater freedom and prosperity for those escaping.
Many Egyptians even attempted to cross both the Red and Mediterranean seas as part of their escape plans but a large majority of escapees who followed these routes died in consequent terms of their approaches.
Undoubtedly, historical and contemporary analyses of the relationship between dictatorship regimes and mass outbreaks of public mental health problems are not restricted to the example of Former President Mubarak’s rule in Egypt.
However, like any other well-known historical and contemporary examples of dictatorship rule, the extreme levels of anger and despair felt by many Egyptian people under Mubarak’s regime highlights the undisputed importance of societies needing to adopt political systems of democracy in which members are able to influence the outcome of political affairs through a democratic right to vote for a selected party or candidate that proposes a manifesto that lists a series of policies which represent the needs and interests of potential voters.
Therefore, the promotion of political inclusion, typically exercised in the form of democratic policy, forms another important aspect of intervention design in policy strategies to promote social inclusion for all members of a society and serves the potential to foster positive elements of subjective mental well-being among relevant populations.
The notion of social acceptance comprises many dimensions and its influence on individuals and members of society at large is not restricted to scientific works that demonstrate its impact on mental well-being but is also researchable in a variety of other important domains as has been evidenced in all of the literature reviews presented above.
Efforts by individuals, organizations, institutions and governments to promote and utilize new or available methods that enable or enhance individual experiences of social acceptance and inclusion not only possess the potential to increase feelings of happiness and positive mental wellbeing among people but can also help to promote academic and career success, increase incidences of pro-social behavior and promote strong physical health in populations.
In the context of wider society, intervention methods that prioritize and enable participation of all members in society’s work through economic and political inclusion policies are equally capable of cultivating the same level of social acceptance experiences among individuals and thus, can facilitate enhancements in all features of subjective well-being.
Therefore, the creation of a society in which everyone feels accepted and included is an essential course of action that needs to be taken by all members to enable a quality experience of life that harnesses happiness and prosperity for others and makes the world a better place for all of humanity to reside within.
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About the Creator
My passion is to write stories related to the topics of psychology and mental health | (Bsc) Hons Applied Psychology Student at Glasgow Caledonian University 😁
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