and the winner is…Face to Face Social Integration
Recently I came across the newest data on longevity. Who lives longer? What factors effect longevity? The most interesting research I found on longevity came from Julianne Holt-Lunstad a BYU professor of Psychology. Here is a snippet of her research interests: “There is now robust evidence of the protective effects of social relationships both on morbidity and on mortality, with a magnitude of effect comparable with many well-established risk factors such as smoking cessation and obesity. My program of research examines the influence of both the quantity and the quality of social relationships on long-term health and on risk for mortality, and the biological pathways (e.g., cardiovascular, neuroendocrine, genetic) by which such associations may occur. I also consider the potentially detrimental influence of negativity in close relationships (e.g., ambivalence, marital distress). My studies have examined social relationships at a network level, among married couples, in mother-and-infant relationships, and within friendships.”
I found a particular piece in the journal PLoS Medicine, where Julianne Holt-Lunstad and Timothy Smith, both psychology professors, reported that social connections; friends, family, neighbors or colleagues – improve our odds of survival by 50 percent.
Another article written by Brett Lee in quoting professors Holt-Lunstad and Smith: “The idea that a lack of social relationships is a risk factor for death is still not widely recognized by health organizations and the public.” The researchers analyzed data from 148 previously published longitudinal studies that measured frequency of human interaction and tracked health outcomes for a period of seven and a half years on average. Because information on relationship quality was unavailable, the 50 percent increased odds of survival may underestimate the benefit of healthy relationships. “When someone is connected to a group and feels responsibility for other people, that sense of purpose and meaning translates to taking better care of themselves and taking fewer risks.
We take relationships for granted as humans – "we’re like fish that don’t notice the water,” Smith said. That constant interaction is not only beneficial psychologically but directly to our physical health.”
In a TED Talks presentation, "The secret to living longer may be your social life", Susan Pinker, author, developmental psychologist, science columnist for a major publication, reveals how in-person social interactions are not only necessary for human happiness but also could be key to health and longevity.
Here is the bottom line to the research of longevity and who lives longest? On a scale of staying alive, from the LEAST impact on your life from the bottom, moving up to MOST important are: Clean Air, Hypertension Rx, Lean vs. Overweight, Exercise, Cardiac Rehab and Flu Vaccine. As important as we view clean air, diet and exercise, as you see, they are at the bottom rung of the scale. Of course, this does not suggest we not pay attention to our environment and physical health through exercise and a healthy nutrition, it does make you question, what is important for health and staying alive longer?
Higher on the scale of vital factors of longevity, but not at the top, are quit drinking and smoking. At the very top for a significant impact to living a long and healthy life are close relationships and social integration.
Although many of us have made the transitions and have adjusted to digital interactions with social media, even before the pandemic demanded it from us, new scientific research proves there is nothing better, healthier and more important to our health than face to face social integration.
My client, Dr. Becky Jandrey, a PhD Psychologist, handed me a pearl of wisdom at her last appointment. "Our personal lives are but a Microcosm of the Macrocosm of the world surrounding us," she said. I thought of how our world has become so interconnected. Not in spite of the Pandemic but because of it. I believe we will value what appears to have been lost and will appreciate each other even more as the fear and uncertainty lifts and gives us back our wings to fly and arms to hug and hold each other again.
Here’s to seeing more of you for our happiness, health and longevity.