Strong Social Networks = Healthier You

There is a strong link between strong family ties and longevity. When it comes to risk of death, a recent study presented in 2016 by the American Sociological Association, found that a higher percentage of older adults had earlier deaths if they did not feel as tight with their family. In a comparison of similar adults, the results showed a 14% risk versus 6% risk of death for those who felt extremely close to family members. In this study of 3,000 people, ages 57 to 85, participants listed five of their closest confidants. Upon an analysis of the data, researchers thought the difference in risk could be due to the sense of responsibility that family often inspires. The study author, James Iveniuk, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health said, “we have strong expectations around providing for one another and not shirking.” When it comes to well-being, people with siblings tend to fare better, mental-health-wise, than people without them. Positive relationships with a brother or sister provided fewer depressive symptoms compared to those who did not get along with their siblings. Good relationships with kin also lead to being happy and having better moods; studies of adult siblings found those positive feelings extend into middle age and beyond. “Interactions in our relationships impact us more than we think,” according to a 2017 study author, Sarah Arpin, assistant professor of psychology at Gonzaga University. Her study consisted of 162 married or co-habitating couples and indicated an influence on health when a positive experience was shared with a partner. For a beneficial effect, even non-positive conversations with a partner are linked to better overall health; just feeling that a partner is responsive is enough. Bonus benefits of strong social ties include: (1) exercising more often of the happily married couples and being more fit; (2) healthier eating for families that are together at mealtimes; and (3) warm parent-child bonds, even decades later, being linked to a lower risk of serious diseases like cancer. For additional information, go to: TIME, February 13, 2017.

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