An active social life—one wherein an individual is involved with family, friends, coworkers, and community—may not only contribute to emotional well-being but may favorably impact physical health and longevity.

Researchers reviewed almost 150 studies to evaluate how much social relationships contribute to longevity. They found that stronger social relationships were associated with a reduced risk of death of 50%. The reduced risk was present regardless of gender, age, cause of death, and length of follow-up. The nature of social relationships was also important, with broader social connections having a stronger influence than relationships within the home (whether an individual lived alone or with others).

The researchers concluded that the positive impact that social relationships appears to have on health and longevity is comparable to that of other lifestyle factors known to influence lifespan. In other words, social involvement may contribute to health to degree similar to that of behaviors like not smoking, being physically active, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Reference: Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB. Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PloS Medicine. 2010 Jul 27;7(7):e1000316.

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