A new study found that women between the ages of 50 and 79 who believed they had good social support were less likely to die during the course of the study.
Led by Dr. Nancy Freeborne, an adjunct professor at George Mason University, the study examined perceived social support and its effect on cardiovascular disease (CVD) and mortality.
Even after accounting for factors such as income, race, and education that could have influenced the results, the researchers still found that women who reported lower levels of social support had a higher death rate during the more than 10 years of the study.
In fact, they found that when women reported a very low level of social support, that predicted about a 20 percent greater risk of death during those same 10-plus years compared to those reporting very high levels of social support.
“Perceived functional social support, which we examined in this study, can include whether a person believes they could get emotional support, advice, or just company from others to do fun things with, which can help reduce stress,” explained Freeborne.
“It’s a reminder that sometimes the simplest things — like reaching out to a loved one — can have the most profound impact.”
For the study, researchers examined data on more than 90,000 postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 79 from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. They included data that was collected over a period of 10 years, including demographics, psychosocial measures (perceived social support), health behaviors, diet, and body mass index.
“The main takeaway from our study is that in a longitudinal study of post-menopausal women, having lower social support was linked to having slightly higher mortality risk,” Freeborne said. “This suggests that social support might serve as a health intervention for some persons. It’s easy and cost-effective to provide others with social support.”
The study was published in Menopause.
Source: George Mason University