Social isolation is the public health risk of our time. A third of the population say they have two or fewer people to turn to in times of distress and science has proven that this is shortening peoples lifespan. As it turns out, what we can do to improve our average lifespan the most is to build strong friendship groups.
So what reduces your chances of dying the most? Well, a study by Julianne Holt-Lundstad at Brigham Young University has tried to answer this question. She studied thousands of middle-aged people looking at many of their key lifestyle factors. Their Marriages, their diet, their exercise, etc. She tracked them over a period of 7 years to try and find out which lifestyle factors made the biggest impact on their long term life expectancy.
She discovered that, far outweighing the factors of diet, health and exercise, and even more important than whether the participants quit smoking and drinking, the thing that was most likely to decrease your chances of dying were one’s close relationships and one’s social integration. Your close relationships meaning your immediate friends and family, the people you want to invite to your birthday parties. By social integration, she’s referring to the number of interactions you have every day.
This study has been used as a potential example as to why women generally live longer than men, the idea being that women are much more likely to build and maintain social relationships into their old age.
Looking at that evidence, it’s hard not to see the importance of developing a strong and fulfilling social circle. So how do we go about doing this? Maybe you’re thinking ‘I text people all the time… does that count?’.
Unfortunately, when communicating via messaging, it’s just not the same I’m afraid. Face to face interaction releases oxytocin which promotes trust and lowers your stress. It also generates dopamine which makes you feel happy and numbs pain. You just don’t get that chemical process happening inside you when you chat via digital messaging and not getting that from social interactions can have negative connotations for your health in the long term.
In a remote mountainous part of Sardinia in Italy, there is a village where men and women both live long and healthy lives. There are six times as many people over the age of 100 in the village as there are on the Italian mainland. What’s their trick? At Villa Grande, the people live in a dense, vibrant and social community. They interact with each other all the time and live very traditional lives. This village is a prime example of how a healthy community can give you not only better quality but also a better quantity of life.
If you want to improve your social circles and build more connections in your life. Try using the Sense Social app. Be adventurous, meet some new people doing something that you love or something you’ve never tried before. Our app is designed to bring people together and help you to build your community by making it easy for you to meet up with people in person at events. As you can see, it can do more than brighten your day, it could actually extend your life and help you live to 100.