Can Relationships Make You Live longer?

A couple of weeks ago I was having a drink with an old friend.  We were talking politics and discussing the disastrous impact socialism has on thriving economies. When our second round of drinks arrived, I switched subjects to tell him about this blog series.  I told him it was all about how close relationships bring greater joy, safeguard health, and grease the wheels of business.  I told him that strong social ties can even help people live longer.  “Is that true?” he replied, and then added, “I’m not sure I believe that.” Unfortunately, I didn’t have any credible sources to back up my claim and was a little annoyed he call me out on it. So I decided to look into this before I make the claim again.  So I asked the internet. . . “Can having close relationships and strong social ties actually help you live longer?”

The Ties That Bind. . .

A blog about the importance of relationships in life, health and business.

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As a Matter of Fact, Yes!

As it turns out, it can!  In an article recently published by the Harvard Medical School, cites Dr. Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist with Massachusetts General Hospital and 80 years of research on this subject.  The findings concluded that “People who are more socially connected to family, friends, and community are happier, healthier, and live longer than people who are less connected.”  The quality of relationships matters the most.  Those most satisfied with their relationships in their 50’s turned out to be the healthiest people at the age of 80.

Seeing is Believing

I also ran across an amazing presentation on this subject at Ted Talks.  In this video, psychologist Susan Pinker centers her talk around research she did on the Italian island of Sardinia.  Sardinia has 6 times the number of people who live past 100 years as the number living on Italy’s mainland.  Furthermore, it has 10 times more than are living in all of North America!  Pinker believes the reason for the large number of people living past 100 years is that most of the centenarians on Sardinia are almost always surrounded by extended family members and close friends.  Check it out for yourself.

One of the interesting things that came up in the video is the difference between digital friendships and in-person friendships.  According to Pinker, they are not the same thing.  Face to face interactions increase the production of dopamine and lowers the production of cortisol.  That means you feel good and your stress level goes down. Social media posts and text messages don’t have the same effects.

The bottom line is, if you want to live longer, make time to visit with your friends. I just closed my Facebook account in favor of spending more time with those who really matter to me, face to face, on the phone or on video chat.  If for some reason I miss seeing what everyone had for lunch or selfies taken in line at Starbucks, I will be sure to let you know.  In the meantime, if any of the links in the article are broken, call me.  I will fix them and then buy you a drink so we can get caught up.