According to research published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, interacting with others regularly may prolong the lives of older adults.
The study, which examined over 28,000 individuals, indicates that socialising on a daily basis appears to be the most advantageous for increasing longevity.
As part of the Association between social activity frequency and overall survival in older people: results from the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey, researchers utilised data from the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey (CLHLS), a nationally representative study of independent elderly individuals that began in 1998 and has been ongoing.
The study collected information on the frequency of social interactions starting in 2002, and this current research focused on five waves of data collection that occurred up to 2018-19, with a total of 28,563 participants who had an average age of 89.
Participants were asked about the frequency of their social activities, with response options including almost every day, at least once a week, at least once a month, occasionally, and never. The study also collected data on potentially influential factors such as education, sex, marital status, household income, fruit and vegetable intake, lifestyle, and poor health. The study tracked survival for an average of 5 years or until death.
During the monitoring period, 25,406 individuals reported not engaging in any social activities, 1379 engaged sometimes, 693 at least once a month, 553 at least once a week, and 532 almost every day. Of the 28,563 participants, 21,161 (74 per cent) died, with 15,728 passing away within the first 5 years.
Overall, the study found that more frequent social activity was associated with longer survival. The greater the frequency of social interactions, the greater the likelihood of living longer.
Compared to individuals who reported never socialising, those who socialised occasionally had a 42 per cent delay in time to death, those who socialised at least monthly had a 48 per cent delay, those who socialised at least weekly had a 110 per cent delay, and those who socialised nearly every day had an 87 per cent delay in time to death.
Researchers concluded that “although the association between social activity frequency and overall survival attenuated after adjusting for sociodemographic factors, socioeconomic status, healthy behaviours and several morbidities, it still remained statistically significant, which indicated that social activity participation per se was an independent predictor for overall survival in older people.”
Although it remains unclear as to why socialising in older age may increase survival rates, some theories suggest that socialising could improve healthy behaviours, such as regular exercise and a balanced diet.
Another possible explanation is that socialising may help reduce the negative effects of chronic stress on the body, according to the researchers.
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