A new Swedish study has found that people who trust others live longer.
Those who do not trust others may be shortening their lives, according to researchers from Lund University and Stockholm University.
Trust in other people is sometimes described as the glue that keeps societies together, the researchers noted.
The new study, based on nationally representative survey data from the United States, shows that this important resource does even more — it literally keeps you alive, the researchers said.
“Whether or not you trust other people, including strangers, makes a difference of about 10 months in terms of life expectancy,” said Alexander Miething, a researcher at Stockholm University and one of the co-authors of the study.
It also makes a difference whether you live in a place where relatively large shares of the population do not trust other people, he said.
“In those contexts, your risk of dying is higher than in places with more community trust,” he said.
The study is based on data from the U.S. General Social Survey (GSS) that allowed the researchers to assess Americans’ attitudes, their levels of trust, and socioeconomic conditions.
The data consisted of pooled cross sections, which means that respondents were interviewed only once, the researchers reported.
Since the survey data can be linked to the national mortality database (NDI), it was possible to estimate whether respondents’ perceived trust predicts their risk of dying. The study sample included 25,270 people who were surveyed between 1978 and 2010.
According to the researchers, the results are in line with earlier research that showed that people who trust may be better able to mobilize social support from network contacts and their wider communities. Trust is supposed to reduce friction in social interactions, and diminish psychosocial stress that contributes to health problems and shortened lives, the researchers noted.
The advantages of high levels of trust were similar between men and women and persisted even when accounting for socioeconomic conditions such as education and income, according to the researchers.
Given the protective effects of trust for mortality, a decline in trust — as seen across the U.S. over past decades — may pose an underestimated public health concern, the researchers concluded.
The study was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Source: Stockholm University