As we get older and people drift from us, move away, go on holidays or sadly pass away, it can be difficult to maintain an active social life. However researchers have found these interactions with our friends are actually vital to living long lives.
According to new research published in February 2016 in the online journal BMJ Open, membership in social groups such as book clubs or church groups after retirement is linked to a longer life, with the impact on health and wellbeing similar to that of regular exercise.
In fact the more groups a person belongs to in the first few years after he or she stops working, the lower their risk of death.
As retirees will know, retirement is a major life change and can lead to depression and loss of purpose. One way of maintaining a feeling of busy-ness is to surround yourself with friends, says the study.
The researchers tracked the health of 424 people, aged over 50, for six years after they had retired and compared them with the same number of people, matched for age, sex, and health status, but who were still working.
Each participant was asked how many different organisations, clubs, or societies, s/he belonged to, and which ones, and asked to assess their quality of life and subjective physical health.
The results showed that those whose quality of life was good before retirement were more likely to score highly on quality of life assessment after retirement, but this was actually down to how many social groups they were in.
Compared with those still working, every group membership lost after retirement was associated with around a 10 per cent drop in quality of life score six years later.
Of the 28 retirees in the study who died in the first six years after finishing work, self-rated health was not a significant predictor of death, but the number of group memberships was.
If a person belonged to two groups before retirement, and kept these up over the following six years, their risk of death was 2%, rising to 5% if they gave up membership of one, and to 12% if they gave up membership of both.
Interestingly, there were no such patterns seen in those still working, showing it is truly vital to be in a group and feel part of something well into your 60s and beyond.
Luckily Starts at 60 offers that 24/7 for you 🙂