Hello best life seekers!
Did you know that social connectedness can help you live longer, experience less stress and be happy? That’s a health secret that needs studying!
Circle of Friends
We are social beings. You may have heard the adage that we are a composite of our five closest friends. This reflects how we tend to flock to similar people or become influenced by those closest to us. What’s interesting is how our close relationships impact our longevity.
A study looking into the relationship between greater longevity and marital status, ties with friends and relatives, club membership and level of volunteerism found that the type of connection was irrelevant. What mattered was the bond the group shared. If your group shares similar values, healthy habits and life goals you are likely to experience less stress, be happier and live longer.
Conversely, older people without close friends are more likely to develop chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and depression, and have higher risk rates for stroke than their counterparts. Loneliness alone can decrease your life expectancy by 8 years!
While we’d expect diet, exercise and overall health to be the best predictor of longevity, studies at Brigham Young University found the following 3 to be important predictors:
- Your drinking and smoking habits
- Your close relationships: closest friends, people you can call on a bad day, friends you know who will support you in bad times
- Your social integration: These are the interactions with people as you move through your day and includes both strong and weak bonds, such as the coffee barista you see on your daily commute, the postman, or the woman behind you in line at the grocery store
The face-to-face interactions you have on a daily basis are one of the strongest indicator of how long you’ll live! In places where social culture is engineered for close relationships and daily social interactions, people tend to live longer.
Sardinia, Italy is the only place in the world where men live as long as women. A researcher looking to understand why noticed that in the village she studied, as people aged they were always surrounded by family, friends, neighbors and friendly strangers. This is called the village model and sadly the world is moving away from it.
This social indicator also offers an explanation as to why women tend to live longer than men globally: Women are more likely to prioritize face-to-face relationships than their male counterparts, staving off disease and mental decline.
Build Your Village
“Blue zones” are five populations around the world noted for their impressive health and longevity. In all five, social connectedness is ingrained in their culture. Some forge a strong lifelong circle of friends like in Okinawa, or meet with friends daily for happy hour as in Sardinia, while others like the Adventists host weekly meals with their congregations. In all cases, these extraordinary populations value their social circle and are active in it.
In today’s overly hectic world of disjointed relationships where families and friends live scattered across a country or the globe, commuting times cut into social opportunities, and where Instagram and Facebook have replaced face-to-face interactions, is it no wonder we feel fractured and isolated?
Suicide numbers actually lowered US longevity this past year. We have to ask why so many people are that depressed and alienated from themselves. The answers aren’t simple, of course, but as social animals we both crave the acceptance and support of others and wish to reciprocate it. When we feel a part of something greater than ourselves, experience belonging, and feel appreciated and respected by others, our well-being increases. That’s just another way of saying we become happier.
One For All and All For One
A great secret of heath and vitality is sharing our lives with others we care about and who care about us. Maybe your family connections are weak or you’re single. As noted, the type of connection is irrelevant. Membership in social groups and volunteering also provide that connectedness we all need. What’s important is finding people who share your values, healthy habits and life goals.
Find your tribe and those kindred souls whose company you enjoy and cherish. You’ll not only add years to your life, but you’ll enjoy your time here that much more.
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