Friends: Keys To Longevity
We know that having good friends can make our lives richer, but research now shows that our friends may also increase our longevity.
In a 10-year longevity study of people aged 70 and older, searchers at Flinders University in Australia concluded that a network of good friends is more likely than close family relationships to increase longevity in older people.
The research report was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. Researchers used a series of interviews with nearly 1,500 older people to assess how much contact they had with their social networks. The group was monitored for a decade. The researchers also considered how economic, social, environmental and lifestyle factors affected the health and well-being of the seniors in the study. After controlling for those variables, the researchers were able to see the positive effect friendships have on longevity.
Based on results from the study, researchers learned:
Close relationships with children and relatives had only a small effect on longevity rates for older people during the 10-year study.
People with extensive networks of good friends and confidantes outlived those with the fewest friends by 22 percent.
The positive effects of friendships on longevity continued throughout the decade, regardless of other profound life changes such as the death of a spouse or other close family members. While the study couldn’t determine for sure why close friendships have such a dramatic effect on longevity, the authors of the report speculated that friends may encourage older people to take better care of themselves—by cutting down on smoking and drinking, for example, or seeking medical treatment earlier for symptoms that may indicate serious problems. Friends may also help seniors get through difficult times in their lives, by offering coping mechanisms and having a positive effect on mood and self-esteem. The research did not distinguish the effects of new versus long-term friendships on longevity.
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