Social isolation increases risk of early death

So, I was just chatting online with a Facebook friend when I noticed a Google alert about a study that linked social activity, or the lack of it, with your risk of death. Turns out that people with lots of social connections and activity survive longer, and I’m pretty sure the researchers were looking at actual interaction not e-socializing.

People who are actively socially with family and friends are 50 percent more likely to live longer than similarly situated people who lead isolated lives, according to an analysis by researchers at Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The researchers examined 148 studies from across the globe that examined the connection between health and death with various measures of social activity. The analysis involved data on more than 300,000 people followed for an average of seven-and-a-half years.

Overall, there was “a 50 percent increased likelihood of survival for participants with stronger social relationships,” the researchers reported in PLoS Medicine online. “This finding remained consistent across age, sex, initial health status, cause of death, and follow-up period.”

The link between social interaction and health and well being has been long established and attributed to various factors such as the help and support of family and friends to the idea that “being part of a social network gives individuals meaningful roles that provide self-esteem and purpose to life.”

Regardless of the reason, the researchers noted that having even an “adequate” social network had a comparable health impact to quitting smoking. Poor social networks increased the risk of death at the same levels as obesity and physical inactivity, the researchers found.

Sounds like another good reason to shut down the computer (after emailing this post to some acquaintances) and go out and work on that real-life network of friends and family.

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