Socially active seniors are far more likely to enjoy longer lives: Study.
ED: The following study is very interesting; I know of several veterans who rarely socialise and have become isolated. They don’t attend veteran events, ANZAC Day, reunions etcetera. Veterans who do get out and socialise look younger, healthier and enjoy their lives. Now this study shows we live longer…
During the pandemic lockdowns, loneliness and social isolation emerged as serious, even potentially deadly, health issues.
Since then, researchers have sought to identify how badly loneliness puts your health at risk.
According to the National Institute on Health, loneliness is more damaging than “smoking 15 cigarettes per day or obesity”.
Social isolation and loneliness have even been estimated to shorten a person’s life span by as many as 15 years.
The CDC advises that social isolation is associated with about a 50 per cent increased risk of dementia.
It’s also associated with a 29 per cent increased risk of heart disease and a 32 per cent increased risk of stroke.
Depressing, right? A new study turns the problem around.
Researchers from Sichuan University West China Hospital looked at how the social habits of more than 28,000 older people might impact their overall survival.
The key finding: the more often participants socialised, the greater likelihood of living significantly longer.
Socialising nearly every day appears to be the most beneficial for a long life by a good margin.
The study Data from drawn from the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey (CLHLS), an ongoing nationally representative study of older people living independently. The study began in 1998.
The authors advise that information on socialising behaviour only started being collected in 2002. The new study focuses on five separate waves of data collection up to 2019.
Participants, whose average age was 89, were quizzed about how often they engaged in social activities. They were asked to rank their social activity as almost every day; at least once a week; at least once a month; occasionally; or never.
General information collected included sex, education, marital status, household income, fruit and vegetable intake, lifestyle and poor health.
Survival was tracked for an average of five years or until death.
Over the first five years 25,406 people said they didn’t engage in any social activities; 1379 reported doing so sometimes; 693 at least once a month; 553 at least once a week; and 532 almost daily.
During the entire monitoring period, 21,161 (74 per cent) participants died, 15,728 within the first five years.
Results Up to five years from the start of the monitoring period, standardised death rates were:
- 4 per 100 people monitored for a year among those who never socialised.
- 8 per 100 people among those who did so occasionally.
- 3 among those who did so at least monthly.
- 5 among those who socialised at least once a week. And 7.3 among those who did so nearly every day. In other words, people who never socialised were more than twice as likely to die earlier than those who socialised every day.
Participants were more likely to be socially active if they were male, younger, with a higher level of education, married, living in a town or city, and/or with relatives, and enjoyed actual and/or self-rated good health.
Overall, more frequent social activity was associated with significantly longer survival. The greater the frequency, the greater the likelihood of living longer.
When the data were further stratified by age, social activity seemed to be even more strongly associated “with extended survival within the first five years for the oldest old”.
In other words, the very old people that engaged in frequent social activity overall had the most benefit.
The authors suggest that strategies to promote the maintenance of an active social life in very old people should be encouraged.
This is an observational study, so can’t establish cause. And the authors say they have no explanation as to why social activity works to lengthen life.
The simplest answer: whatever loneliness does to the body and soul, social activity, and everything that goes with it – more movement, better diet, better engagement of the mind etc – does the opposite.