Home » News » Relationships Are Important for Longevity

Relationships Are Important for Longevity

A new study emphatically demonstrates the value of social relationships for increasing a person’s lifespan.

In fact, Brigham Young University scientists add social relationships to the “short list” of factors that predict a person’s odds of living or dying.

In the journal PLoS Medicine, BYU professors Julianne Holt-Lunstad and Timothy Smith report that social connections — friends, family, neighbors or colleagues — improve our odds of survival by 50 percent.

Here is how low social interaction compares to more well-known risk factors:

  • Equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day
  • Equivalent to being an alcoholic
  • More harmful than not exercising
  • Twice as harmful as obesity

“The idea that a lack of social relationships is a risk factor for death is still not widely recognized by health organizations and the public,” write the PLoS Medicine editors in a summary of the BYU study and why it was done.

The researchers analyzed data from 148 previously published longitudinal studies that measured frequency of human interaction and tracked health outcomes for a period of seven and a half years on average.

Because information on relationship quality was unavailable, the 50 percent increased odds of survival may underestimate the benefit of healthy relationships.

“The data simply show whether they were integrated in a social network,” Holt-Lunstad said.

“That means the effects of negative relationships are lumped in there with the positive ones. They are all averaged together.”

Holt-Lunstad said there are many pathways through which friends and family influence health for the better, ranging from a calming touch to finding meaning in life.

“When someone is connected to a group and feels responsibility for other people, that sense of purpose and meaning translates to taking better care of themselves and taking fewer risks,” Holt-Lunstad said.

In examining the data, Smith took a careful look at whether the results were driven primarily by people helping each other prolong their golden years.

“This effect is not isolated to older adults,” Smith said. “Relationships provide a level of protection across all ages.”

Smith said that modern conveniences and technology can lead some people to think that social networks aren’t necessary.

“We take relationships for granted as humans – we’re like fish that don’t notice the water,” Smith said.

“That constant interaction is not only beneficial psychologically but directly to our physical health.”

Source: Brigham Young University

Relationships Are Important for Longevity

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Relationships Are Important for Longevity. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 18, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/07/29/relationships-are-important-for-longevity/16177.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.