Posted on Feb 07, 2020, 2 p.m.
A recent study published in the Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences suggests that being a social butterfly who rubs elbows with a wide variety of people, particularly in older years, may be the key to living a happier, healthier, and longer life.
According to the study from the University of Texas researchers, seniors who maintained an active social life experienced many side benefits; the study shows expanding the number and variety of social interactions increased physical activity levels as well as emotional well being which can add years to lifespan.
“Adults often grow less physically active and more sedentary as they age, and these behaviors pose a risk factor for disease and death,” says lead study author Karen Fingerman, a professor of human development and family sciences at the university and the director of the university’s new Texas Aging & Longevity Center. “It is difficult to convince people to go to the gym or commit to work out on a regular basis,” she adds. “But they may be willing to reach out to acquaintances, attend an organized group event, or talk to the barista who serves them at their favorite coffee shop.”
Over 300 adults aged 65+ were involved in this study, who were asked to track their activities and social encounters every three hours for one week, they also wore electronic devices to monitor physical activity that enabled the researchers to connect periods of increased social activities such as leaving the house, going shopping, and meeting friends with increases in physical activity levels.
Previous studies have demonstrated the benefits of more intimate social ties having benefits, this study suggests that adding casual social interactions to daily activities may be even more important to physical health; natural social encounters come with physical activity and other complex behaviors that carry health benefits in unconventional ways, according to Fingerman.
“Older adults may be able to be more sedentary with their close friends and family — sitting and watching TV or otherwise lounging at home,” says Fingerman. “But to engage with acquaintances, older adults must leave the house, or at least get up out of their chair to answer the door.”
In other words that old song is correct, people who need people really are the luckiest people in the world because this study suggests that they may even outlive those that are less sociable, especially when paired with another study that suggests that all seniors who are up and moving on a regular basis are about 40% more likely to live longer than those who don’t or are not able to.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.