An active social life as you age is linked to living longer

Having an active social life as you get older has been linked to living longer in a new study. Scientists at Sichuan University West China Hospital found socialising daily, weekly or monthly meant elderly people increased their chances of having a long life.

These findings were when compared to individuals who socialised very little or not at all. As well as relieving stress, experts believe that time spent with friends and family can help motivate older people to be more physically active.

The long-term study analysed the data of 28,563 participants, who were asked about their socialising habits in 2002, 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2014. At the start of the study, the average age of those taking part was 89 and survival was generally tracked for five years or until individuals died.

Answers were selected from the following choices: almost every day; not daily, but at least once a week; not weekly, but at least once a month; not monthly, but sometimes; and never. During the first five years of the study, 25,406 participants reported they did not engage in any social activities, 1,379 said sometimes; 693 answered at least once a month, 553 at least once a week and 532 almost daily.

Once adjusted for factors such as sex, age, diet and marital status, death rates were 18.4 per 100 people in those who never socialised, 8.8 among those who did so occasionally, 8.3 for participants who did so at least monthly, 7.5 among people who socialised at least once a week and 7.3 in those who did so nearly daily.

The results showed a positive correlation between socialising more regularly and living longer. Meeting up with others at least once a week was seen to have the biggest impact on life expectancy in the study.

The authors said: “This study found that frequent participation in social activity was associated with prolonged overall survival time. From baseline [start of study] to five years of follow-up, the more frequent the social activity, the more prolonged the survival time.

“However, after five years of follow-up, there was a threshold effect regarding the association between social activity frequency and overall survival time, and only participating in social activity almost every day could significantly extend the overall survival time.”

Photo credit: Unsplash/LOGAN WEAVER