20 June 2005

More Friends Might Mean A Longer Life

More than 20 years since Dr. Lisa F. Berkman and colleagues published their seminal study showing that having a strong social network might extend lifespans, another study comes confirming this hypothesis.
"Older people with better social networks with friends were less likely to die over a 10-year follow-up period than older people with poorer friend’s networks," said Lynne C Giles, lead author of the study, adding, "We looked at the number of close friends, the frequency of personal contact and the frequency of phone contact with those friends."

She added that people with highest network of friends were 'about 22 per cent less likely to die by the end of the 10-year period than those with the poorest network of friends.'

The findings showed that those with stronger relationships with friends survived longer than those who had good contact with family and children. A good friend’s support system was also found to help participants overcome personal crisis like the death of a spouse.

[Earthtimes.org - Jun 17, 2005]

It seems that being connected with people confers health benefits related to better stress management. By "people," we mean family, friends, or co-workers who can help us solve problems and deal better with daily hardships. The working theory is that the more we can cope with stress, the more we boost the immune and nervous systems' responses that keep us healthy.
In the studies published between 1976 to 1994 that Dr. Berkman examined, researchers measured the quality of social attachments and related it to a broad range of illnesses, from ischemic heart disease, cancer, and cerebrovascular and circulatory disease, to respiratory diseases, gastrointestinal conditions, and other potential causes of death.

"These studies showed that in almost all cases, those individuals who were the most socially isolated and disconnected were clearly at increased risk of developing illnesses that led to death."

As to how social experience can get "inside the body," findings of several of the studies Dr. Berkman reviewed suggested that multiple biologic pathways are involved, two of which may be the immune and neuroendocrine systems.

In one of the studies that focused on cardiovascular reactivity, which the neuroendocrine system affects, study volunteers completed two laboratory tasks. Fifty percent of the subjects worked alone, the other half had a friend or "supportive partner" accompany them. Those in the latter group showed beneficially reduced heart rate and blood pressure. The researchers suggested the "friend's presence may have acted as a conditioned stimulus or a ‘safety signal,' altering neural input to the heart during challenge."

[Social Relationships, Connectedness, and Health: The Bonds that Heal]

Make more friends today!

5 reactions:

sachiko said...

Make more friends?! I'm glad there's Berks,doc! You think we can make it last till some of us can be called "older people'?

Dr. Emer said...

I strongly believe that is possible, Sachiko. :)

rolly said...

I agree completely! Lalo na siguro pag ang isa sa mga kaibigan mo doctor. Doc, friends tayo forever ha.

Dr. Emer said...

You can bet on that, Tito Rols.

bayi said...

A person finds meaning in relating to other people. Hence, we have social units like the family, the community, network of friends and to some lesser degree, acquaintances. In the absence of such interaction, the meaning to exist is lost. And hence, the desire to live is similarly lost.

That's why I am making lots of friends not just at my place of work and in my community. I have double assurance by making friends in the cyber arena too. Thanks to you Dr Emer, Sassy, Rolly, JDavies, Cami, Sha, Paul, Resty, Soulless, Mari, Melvin, Melissa, Angelo, caffeine_sparks and the many of you out there for the affirmation of life!