Think Femur: The Importance of Helping Others for Our Own Wellbeing 

When we talk about health and wellbeing, the first few things that spring to people’s minds are diet and exercise. Of course, those are very important aspects of health and wellbeing but over the years I have come to realise that social relationships, particularly in the age of AI, are more important than ever. In fact, I believe they are the next frontier of wellbeing. So, in this month article I wanted to share a story with you and who doesn’t love a story?! It is about the importance of helping others for our own wellbeing.  

Margaret Mead was an anthropologist. And she was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilisation. Her answer surprised everyone… 

The First Sign of Civilisation 

Mead said the first sign of civilisation is a healed human femur bone. Quick anatomy lesson: that is the big bone that runs from hip to knee. But why would something like this be so significant? Well, ordinarily, whether you are a human or other animal, a broken bone is a death sentence out in the wild. You can’t find water. You can’t hunt for food. And you certainly can’t run away from predators! So normally, that would be game over—and probably a slow death, too. But according to Mead, the discovery of this healed human femur means quite the opposite. In fact, it tells us that at some point, humans started looking after each other and working together. We began helping others. That bone was healed because someone took care of that injured person. 

Why Is Helping Others So Important? 

So, Margaret Mead deemed that to be, in her opinion, the first sign of human civilisation. And here’s why I think it’s an interesting point: 

We are coming, I would say, to another crunch point. We’re in a digital age, AI is starting to dominate our lives, and we don’t really know the direction that’s headed. But something we can control is our connectedness. We only have to look at the health implications of loneliness for proof that social relationships are just as essential as a good diet or exercise. The US Surgeon General equated the lack of social connections to smoking 15 cigarettes a day!* So, we know the effectiveness of belonging, and how powerful it is when we look after each other. And that’s why helping others is so important for our own wellbeing. 

Think Femur 

That bone was discovered around 15,000 years ago. What it tells us is that what mattered then matters just as much now—especially as digitalisation and artificial intelligence really start to take hold. So I want to encourage you to keep sight of the importance of human relationships and helping others. Because that, I think, is going to make us happy, healthy, more resilient, and ultimately continue to thrive in a rapidly changing world. 

Think femur. 

*The Lancet, July 08, 2023