Social Relationships Linked to Improved Survival

Meta-analysis finds such relationships associated with 50 percent higher chance of survival
By Eric Metcalf
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, July 28 (HealthDay News) -- Having stronger social relationships is associated with an increased likelihood of survival, with a magnitude of effect that's comparable to quitting smoking, according to research published online July 27 in PLoS Medicine.

Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Ph.D., of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and colleagues performed a meta-analytic review of 148 studies with 308,849 participants that investigated the association between social relationships and mortality.

The researchers found a 50 percent increased likelihood of survival for participants who had stronger social relationships. The association was most prominent for complex measures of social integration (odds ratio, 1.91) and lowest for binary measures of residential status, such as living alone compared to living with others (odds ratio, 1.19). The authors write that the magnitude of the findings is comparable to quitting smoking and exceeds mortality risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity.

"Physicians, health professionals, educators, and the public media take risk factors such as smoking, diet, and exercise seriously; the data presented here make a compelling case for social relationship factors to be added to that list. With such recognition, medical evaluations and screenings could routinely include variables of social well-being; medical care could recommend if not outright promote enhanced social connections; hospitals and clinics could involve patient support networks in implementing and monitoring treatment regimens and compliance, etc.," the authors conclude.

The study was partially funded by a grant from TP Industrial Inc.

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