Social Relations Impact on Health

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Having good social relationships -- friends, marriage, or children -- may be every bit as important to a healthy lifespan as quitting smoking, losing weight, or taking certain medications, US researchers reported on Tuesday.

People with strong social relationships were 50 percent less likely to die early than people without such support, the team at Brigham Young University in Utah found. They suggest that policymakers look at ways to help people maintain social relationships as a way of keeping the population healthy.

"A lack of social relationships was equivalent to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day,'' psychologist Julianne Holt-Lunstad, who led the study, said in a telephone interview.

Her team conducted a meta-analysis of studies that examine social relationships and their effects on health. They looked at 148 studies that covered more than 308,000 people for their analysis, published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Medicine at http://www.plosmedicine.org.

Having low levels of social interaction was equivalent to being an alcoholic, was more harmful than not exercising and was twice as harmful as obesity. …