Social Connections and Health


Previous studies have found that aging adults live longer if they have more social connections. A new study builds on that research – demonstrating how social relationships reduce the risk of poor health at each stage of life.

The size of a person’s social network is important for health in early as well as late adulthood.

Social integration in adolescence was found to protect against obesity. Researchers found body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference were higher among those with lower levels of social integration during adolescence.

And, in older age, social isolation can exacerbate a host of health problems, they said.

But, in middle adulthood, the number of social connections do not appear to matter as much as the level of support or strain they provide.

Dr Harris said: ‘The relationship between health and the degree to which people are integrated in large social networks is strongest at the beginning and at the end of life, and not so important in middle adulthood, when the quality, not the quantity, of social relationships matters.’

The scientists assessed data from four surveys of the US population that, collectively, covered the lifespan from adolescence to older age.

One of the four studies examined found that having a strong social base earlier in life led to a 54 per cent reduction in the chances of developing hypertension later.

Dr Yang Claire Yang, of UNC, CPC and the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center said: ‘We studied the interplay between social relationships, behavioral factors and physiological dysregulation that, over time, lead to chronic diseases of aging – cancer being a prominent example.”  Feeling lonely can ‘vastly elevate’ a person’s risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer, scientists warn.

“Our analysis makes it clear that doctors, clinicians and other health workers should redouble their efforts to help the public understand how important strong social bonds are throughout the course of all of our lives.”

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

From The Daily UK


Laura Kay House, MA, is the founder and owner of Silver Connections, located in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Silver Connections provides numerous socializing opportunities through events and travel, personal service, quality members and connections for age 55+ (mostly Boomers!) active and single adults.