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Staying Social Has Long-Life Benefits

August 5, 2010

According to the findings of a comprehensive analysis of numerous studies involving social relationships and mortality risk conducted by Julianne Holt-Lunstad of Brigham Young University and colleagues, people who maintain social relationships have a 50 percent greater likelihood of survival compared to those with poor or insufficient social relationships. The magnitude of this effect is so great that it’s comparable with quitting smoking and even goes beyond many well-known risk factors including obesity and a lack of physical activity.  The authors' findings, published in the journal PLoS Medicine, are the result of analyzing 148 studies that included data from over 300,000 people followed for an average of 7.5 years. Their research indicates that the overall positive effects remained consistent despite taking various factors such as age, sex, initial health status, follow up period and cause of death into account. This suggests that the association between social relationships and mortality may be general and not just isolated to certain groups, such as older people. Efforts to reduce mortality by enhancing social relationships and connections will require innovation, but will also represent a major opportunity to enhance both survival and quality of life, say the authors. They concluded that, "Physicians, health professionals, educators and the public media take risk factors, such as smoking, diet and exercise, seriously—the data presented here make a compelling case for social relationship factors to be added to that list."