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Social Relation Linked to Longer Life

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Social relation could be more important than medications when it comes to your lifespan.  A new study has revealed that not only are people who need people the “luckiest people in the world,” they also live the longest.

Julianne Holt-Lunstead of Brigham Young University in Utah led a team of researchers to try and determine the relevance of social ties as they relate to physical health.  They analyzed 148 studies that looked at the social relation, or lack thereof, of over 300,000 people. 

After controlling for pre-existing health conditions and other factors, the researchers determined that people who have a strong social network are 50% less likely to die early; they also came to the conclusion that being reclusive is harder on physical health than smoking or being an alcoholic.  Specifically, they state that being socially isolated is the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes per day.

As for why this is the case, Holt-Lunstead concedes that the exact cause of the link is still unclear; however, the team suspects that becoming socially isolated depresses the immune system significantly.

Additionally, people who are surrounded by family and friends often feel more responsible for those close to them, which may mitigate risky behavior.
According to PLoS Medicine, a recent survey conducted by the Mental Health Foundation found that 10% of people often feel very lonely, while a third of the population feel they know someone who is lonely.  In the United States, there has been a three-fold increase in the number of people who claim to have no confidants.

The reasons for this are complex, but many mental health experts, our lifestyles play a role.  More and more people are marrying later and delaying having children and life in industrialized nations “sets us up” for social isolation, as more and more families live far away from other family members.

How is this study significant?  According to Holt-Lunstead’s team, this research could influence how physicians view social network or social relation with respect to patient health.

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