Attention Loners: Popular People Live Longer

Loners live longer

Popular People Live Longer?

In their study Social Relationships and Mortality Risk, BYU professors Julianne Holt-Lunstad and Timothy Smith have found that your social connections – friends, family, neighbors and colleagues – improve your odds of survival by 50 percent.

In fact, living a life with few social connections is….

  • Equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day
  • Equivalent to being an alcoholic
  • More harmful than not exercising
  • Twice as harmful as obesity

The Study

The researchers analyzed data from 148 previously published longitudinal studies that measured frequency of human interaction and tracked health outcomes for a period of seven and a half years on average.

Because information on relationship quality was unavailable, the 50 percent increased odds of survival may underestimate the benefit of healthy relationships. “The data simply shows whether they were integrated in a social network,” Holt-Lunstad said. “That means the effects of negative relationships are lumped in there with the positive ones. They are all averaged together.”

Dr. Holt-Lunstad said there are many pathways through which friends and family influence health for the better, ranging from a calming touch to finding meaning in life.

.“When someone is connected to a group and feels responsibility for other people, that sense of purpose and meaning translates to taking better care of themselves and taking fewer risks,” Holt-Lunstad said.

In examining the data, Smith took a careful look at whether the results were driven primarily by people helping each other prolong their golden years.

.“This effect is not isolated to older adults,” Smith said. “Relationships provide a level of protection across all ages.”

.Smith said that modern conveniences and technology can lead some people to think that social networks aren’t necessary.

“We take relationships for granted as humans – we’re like fish that don’t notice the water,” Smith said. “That constant interaction is not only beneficial psychologically but directly to our physical health.”

So, what are we supposed to do with this info?

Assuming you want to live longer, you should try to make new friends.

And yes, I know that as “grown-ups”, we all have uber-busy schedules and we just don’t have time to make new friends.

And yes, it’s not like when we were back in elementary school (or university) – where making a new friend is as simple as sharing your blankie during nap time.

Making new friends as an adult can be a little weird.

But have no fear, your ole buddy Health Habits Doug is here to help:

First of all, if you’re like me, you actually don’t have a lot of free time to devote to new friend hunting, so my first piece of advice is to look for friends with common interests. That way you can hunt for friends while you do the “stuff” you already love to do.

For example, I love just about anything to do with fitness – ergo I try to make friends with people who also love fitness. That way I can hang out with my buddies and stay fit at the same time – 2 birds – 1 stone.

But, what if everybody at your health club is plugged into their own little ipod world and have no interest in making friends?

No problem.

  1. Talk to the staff. They know which members are cool and which members are jerks.
  2. Join an exercise class – those people are more social
  3. Go outside the gym and look for a Meetup group in your city
  4. Actually start interacting with all of your Facebook & Twitter friends.
  5. Friend me on Facebook (Health Habits and/or the real Me) & Twitter – I actually talk to people
  6. Don’t feel weird about trying to make new friends…we all need friends…but some of us are just to scared/shy/apathetic to take the first step.
  7. Be brave.

Scientific Reference

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