It’s all in the routine! New study suggests consistent socialising linked to improved emotional wellbeing in seniors

A new study shows that maintaining a regular social schedule may be beneficial to our overall well-being. Source: Getty Images.

Since birth and throughout our lives, the rhythm of routine shapes more than just our schedules; it profoundly influences our overall well-being.

By providing structure and predictability, routine fosters a sense of stability and control which can reduce stress and anxiety.

Now, a new study published in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B has found that maintaining regular social interactions is linked to better emotional wellbeing in older adults. 

The study was conducted by the University of Zurich’s Healthy Longevity Centre and Department of Psychology and monitored 103 German-speaking older adults from Switzerland who were 65 or older.

The participants were observed over a 21-day period and had to be digitally savvy with adequate hearing and vision.

Using research techniques in which they recorded their social interactions using smartphones the researchers were able to capture the frequency and impact of their social interactions.

The types of interactions monitored ranged from in-person conversations to digital communications such as emails and video chats. Researchers were particularly focused on the routineness of these activities.

Study author post-doctoral researcher Minxia Luo said, “Although it is commonly agreed that social interactions are good for older adults’ health and well-being, it is unclear how older adults should engage in social interactions to maintain or improve their health and well-being,

“My research aims to offer information about ‘how to do it.’ For example, based on the same dataset, we have shown diminishing returns of social interaction frequency on well-being and loneliness, suggesting social interactions frequency is not ‘the more the merrier.’

“We have also shown that alternating between solitude and social interactions is beneficial for well-being.”

Unsurprisingly, the researchers found that routine social interactions tended to elicit positive emotions but surprisingly this pattern, whether occurring with friends, family, or others, was observed regardless of the context.

Furthermore, the study’s findings also showed that regular socialising leads to a decrease in negative emotions such as sadness and anxiety suggesting that that weekly sewing club or trip down to the pub offers a sense of stability which can relieve the emotional lows commonly seen in seniors.

Luo told PsyPost, “A key message is that the regular time patterns of social interactions could be helpful for enhancing well-being, independent of other features of social interactions, such as the frequency and the context (e.g., interaction partners, locations),

“This finding is in line with research on routines in younger adults. In other words, if older adults want to invest their time on an activity to boost their well-being, they could consider developing some routine social interactions.”

The study’s authors did acknowledge its limitations admitting that while routine socialising was linked to an improved emotional state, it could not show whether this was related to overall life satisfaction.

Furthermore, they acknowledged that the study was unable to conclude whether routine interactions improved well-being or whether individuals with better well-being are more inclined to be more social.

Luo concluded, “One long-term goal of this research is to offer some guidance about how to engage in social interactions.”

She said, “There is guidance on physical activities, food intake, etc. It could be helpful to have something for social interactions, which are an important part of daily life.”

So whether once a week, once a month, or every day, it’s clear that routinely embracing social connections can be a vital source of joy which can enhance the overall wellbeing for those navigating their golden years.



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