Study: More social ties = longer life

According to a study published in PLoS Medicine, more than 100 years’ worth of research (148 studies) shows that social support increases survival by about 50 percent. The study shows that the benefit of friends, family and even colleagues turns out to be just as good for long-term survival as giving up a 15-cigarette-a-day smoking habit. And by the study’s numbers, interpersonal social networks are more crucial to physical health than exercising or beating obesity.

Here’s a snippet from Scientific American:

The more, the healthier
Despite the hyperconnected era of Facebook friends and Blackberry messaging, social isolation is on the rise. More people than not report not having a single person they feel that they can confide in—up threefold from 20 years ago, the report authors noted.”People have assumed a threshold effect” when it comes to social relationships, Holt-Lunstad says. Many researchers thought “you’re at risk if you’re socially isolated, but as long as you have one person, you’re okay,” she says.

The decades of research that Holt-Lunstad and her colleagues examined showed that in fact social support and survival operate on a continuum: “The greater the extent of the relationships, the lower the risk,” she says.The analysis also assessed what kind of studies worked best to predict a person’s survival. Questionnaires that had asked participants at least a few in-depth questions about various social connections (such as, “To what extent are you participating or involved in your social network?” or “To what extent can you count on other people?”) were more effective at pinpointing a person’s overall risk of mortality from all causes than those that simply determined if a person was single or married or lived with at least one other person. The more nuanced questions “tap into the perception of the availability” of other people, Holt-Lunstad explains, rather than just determining if a person is co-habitating. Holt-Lunstad and her colleagues found that divvied up this way, complex social networks increased survival rates by 91 percent. (read rest of the article)

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I think one of the tough aspects of depression is that you lose touch with people. I’m not very good at making good friends, and I don’t really know how to make connections with people. It’s very hard for me to ever feel at ease around others.  To be honest, I am often envious of others who can so openly talk/post to buddies or their ‘friends’ on Facebook, because I feel absolutely uncomfortable telling almost anyone anything. Sometimes, I’ve gotten so afraid of having a close friendship that I totally cut off communicating with them for a while. I do have to say that through all my treatments, I’ve come to appreciate social connections more. I hope I keep getting better at it.

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