What Leads to Longevity?
The Overwhelming Evidence: Socialization
Courtesy The Tradition-Prestonwood, North Dallas LIVING WELL Magazine
We all know that living a long and healthy life involves eating well and exercising. There is one more key component, however, that is emerging to be of paramount importance: socialization. And what, exactly, is socialization? Simply put: Interacting on a regular basis with other human beings.
It’s having lunch with girlfriends, playing poker with guy friends, enjoying dinner get-togethers, volunteering for worthwhile organizations, attending art classes and working out at the gym: All of these activities add up to socialization. And the more of it you do, the longer you live.
What Studies Say About the “Socialization Road” to Longevity
If you want evidence, the following findings reveal the unquestionable link between socialization and longevity:
- Research conducted by Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina, published in July 2010, reviewed 148 studies on social relationships and concluded “that people with stronger social relationships had a 50% increased likelihood of survival than those with weaker social relationships.”
- A 20-year, health status study conducted by the Mayo Health Clinic of 4,000 seniors found those who engaged in ongoing social activities and making new friends as they aged generally lived longer.
On the Other Hand, What About the Effects of Loneliness?
What socialization is not: staying home excessively if you live alone, or counting on your spouse to provide your total human interaction.
- According to a pair of studies published in June 2012 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, living alone––or even just feeling lonely––can have serious health consequences for older adults, raising the risks of an earlier-than-expected death and the loss of physical functioning.
- Also found in same studies, the lonely older adults were 45% more likely to die earlier than the seniors who felt meaningfully connected with others, even after results were adjusted for factors like depression, socioeconomic status and existing health conditions.
Why and How Does Socialization Lead to Longevity?
Memory and Brain Health
- According to 2009 research from the American Academy of Neurology, cognitive impairment is less likely in people who are socially active.
- The Harvard School of Public Health published the following in the American Journal of Public Health: “Seniors can help stave off memory loss by maintaining active social lives.”
- A Mayo Health Clinic study revealed that highly socialized individuals were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s or dementia.
- A 2011 Gallup poll shows that 20% of seniors who spend three hours a day socializing report happiness with low stress compared to those with no social time.
- And for those who suffer from depression, interacting with others will significantly fight that condition, according to a 2009 report from the American Sociological Association.
- Blood Pressure – Talking with someone about your problems reduces stress as well as your blood pressure, according to a 2009 study from the American Academy of Neurology.
- Exercise – According to a 2012 article, “The Age Antidote,” by Dr. Len Kravitz (Professor at the University of New Mexico), “A sedentary lifestyle is a predisposition to disability, early death, and a depreciated quality of life.” He encourages socialization in a fitness environment as a motivator to get elders to exercise––and live longer.
- Immune System – Dr. Stephen Cole, author of a 2007 UCLA report, showed that loneliness can break down the immune system. “The biological impact of social isolation reaches down into some of our most basic internal processes––the activity of our genes.”
- Nutrition – According to a 2009 study from the Université de Montréal, there is a clear correlation between food intake and social interaction among hospitalized seniors. An easy link can be made: people who live alone don’t take the trouble to eat properly, and this can lead to weight loss or obesity.
One Way to Find Instant Socialization
Now that you’re convinced you need to socialize, there’s one place where it’s virtually impossible to be lonely: an excellent independent living community. Here, there are opportunities to be with people all day long if you choose––at breakfast, lunch or dinner with interesting, fun individuals; at a fitness or water aerobics class; listening to a speaker; playing bridge or poker; or dancing after dinner.
You can always tuck into your beautiful apartment, but don’t stay there too long. Get out and enjoy the fun––and embrace a longer, happier, and healthier life.
To learn more about The Tradition-Prestonwood retirement community, please call 972-388-1144 or visit them at traditionseniorliving.com.