Long Life and Health
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Health

Your Level of Social Activity May Predict Your Longevity

More and more research reveals the importance of social activity in longevity. A socially active person not only lives longer, but they also are healthier in their senior years. 

People who live in isolation are much more likely to die prematurely – possibly as much as 50% more likely. Some researchers have compared the dangers of isolation that a smoker faces. Smoking reduces the effectiveness of the immune system and slows healing. 

Until recently, longevity was nearly always evaluated by their medical condition. Recent findings indicate that the level of social interaction may also be used to help predict someone’s lifespan – especially for older adults.

The main effect of maintaining close relationships is that your mental and emotional states directly affect your body. When you have relationships with kind people – and you respond with kindness – it will reduce stress.

A major source of stress is loneliness. When people are lonely or feel they are, it increases the stress hormones your body produces. The result is that you have a 30% increased risk of stroke and heart disease. 

Stress also slows your immune response, which makes you more likely to get infections. Your ability to fight off disease becomes reduced. There is also an increased risk of depression, addiction, dementia, and suicide. 

The risk of dementia is increased by as much as 50% when long-term feelings of loneliness or social isolation persist. Lonely seniors are three times more likely to get dementia than seniors who do not consider themselves lonely. 

Because 1 in 4 older adults identify as being lonely, the World Health Organization addressed the effect of loneliness upon the world. In 2023, they called it a “pressing health threat.” 

Researchers believe that loneliness rewires the brain. The effect reduces the number of connections and the volume – a possible cause of inability to focus and dementia. 

There is a difference between social isolation and loneliness. Social isolation can be changed, but it is possible to feel lonely even when you have close friends and lots of social media connections. Loneliness is your perception of how well you are connected to others. 

From this information, it hopefully can be seen why building and maintaining strong relationships is so important. They not only enable you to have better mental and physical health, but they can also extend your longevity. 

There are other known benefits of developing close relationships. It helps reduce physical pain. When more stress hormones (cortisol) are present, it increases the pain in your muscles and joints, but hormones (oxytocin) produced from exercise or spending time with a close friend, spouse, or family member can help reduce the cortisol, enabling you to feel better for a while. Oxytocin also helps to grow new brain cells. 

When you are in love with someone, such as a spouse or another person, it will boost your immune system – which will help you live longer. Hugs can also help produce cortisone – eye contact is beneficial, too. 

If you feel lonely or know someone who has limited social relations, you may be able to help them – which could help you, too. Find adult social groups in your neighborhood and get involved in their activities when they have them. At the same time, instead of using the Internet to connect with people, you will be better off building in-person relationships.

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