No man’s an island, they say, but if you fancy yourself the strong, silent type, more comfortable in the company of yourself rather than socializing with others, a new study might make you change your solitary tune. Your lack of social interaction now, the research contends, could prove just as bad for your health down the road as a life spent chain smoking cigarettes.
The research, conducted by academics from Brigham Young University, appears in PLoS Medicine, and is the result of a meta-analysis of 148 previously published studies on the subject of how often people interact with others and their subsequent health condition later in life.
The conclusion, reports Fast Company, is cause for serious alarm. According to the research, writes Ben Schiller, “low social interaction has the equivalent lifespan impact as smoking 15 cigarettes daily, or being a raging alcoholic. Cutting yourself off from others is worse, even, than inactivity. And twice as bad as obesity.”
So “socializing” predominantly with Facebooks friends, as opposed to the more living-and-breathing variety, does not a healthy future hold. Instead, strong relationships with family and friends create a sort of “positive feedback effect,” leading to individuals taking better care of themselves as they age.
“A lack of social relationships is a risk factor for death is still not widely recognized by health organizations and the public,” the paper contends. “People with stronger social relationships had a 50 percent increased likelihood of survival than those with weaker social relationships.”
It’s nice to think that enduring physical relationships with people are, in fact, important to our general well-being. As what’s glowing on the screens in front of us becomes increasingly more alluring than what’s actually happening in front of our faces, studies like this point to the conclusion, at least to an extent, that having a social life could, well, save your life.
“When someone is connected to a group and feels responsibility for other people, that sense of purpose and meaning translates to taking better care of themselves and taking fewer risks,” said Dr Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor in the Department of Psychology at BYU.
This makes sense, though I’m dubious that a lifelong alcoholic and a lifelong loner could face similar health risks in the twilight years of life.
What happened to the Lone Wolf being the strongest of the pack?