Why Social Connection is the Key to a Long and Healthy Life!

Do you want to live a long and healthy life?

Have you tried to eat healthier foods or exercise more to achieve this? Of course a healthy diet and physical exercise contribute towards a longer life but there is also another factor which makes a bigger difference: social connection.

Social connection is vastly under-rated but of huge importance.

Studies show that social connection is the key to living a long and healthy life.

You can exercise and eat healthily. You can give up smoking and drinking and of course doing these things will make a difference.

What makes the biggest difference however is social connection.

Longevity studies repeatedly demonstrate that social connection is more important than eating healthy food, giving up smoking or giving up alcohol.

One of the most famous studies involve a small town called Roseto in Pennsylvania.

The ‘Roseto Effect’ as it came to be known was initially discovered in 1961 when a doctor in Roseto spoke with the Dr Stewart Wolf, who was the head of medicine at the University of Oklahoma.

They discussed the incredibly low rate of heart attack in Roseto in comparison to other nearby locations.

Roseto barely had any evidence of men aged 55 to 64 having had heart attacks from 1954 to 1961.

This would normally be an ‘at high risk group’ of people with regards to myocardial infarction.

Men over 65 in Roseto had a death rate of 1%, yet the national average was 2%.

Many studies followed as a result of acknowledging these statistics. Researchers trying to understand this longevity looked at various factors including diet.

It was found that the community drank a large amount of wine, smoked many cigars and ate copious amounts of fried food.

What they eventually discovered was that social connection and community spirit was the biggest contributor with regards to good health.

Houses were close together and everyone lived alike with much support. It appeared that the community spirit was protecting health and hearts.

Many studies have too since proved the same and its now common knowledge (but not common enough) that social connection is the elixir of life.

I’ve come to the conclusion myself that the hormone oxytocin plays a large part in this.

Oxytocin is released whenever we experience emotional warmth or kindness.

It’s also released when we stroke pets or hug.

Within a close-knit community I’m convinced that there is probably a significant amount of kindness and emotional warmth.

When oxytocin is released, it flows through the bloodstream and attaches to receptors on the inside of the blood vessel walls.

This causes a release of nitric oxide which dilates blood vessels and lowers blood pressure.

This process is known to protect the heart. I’m guessing that levels of oxytocin within the Roseto community were higher than most.

Knowledge is power and the above knowledge is potentially enough power for you to increase the length of your life.

Before you cancel your gym membership and burn your trainers however, I’d recommend increasing your social connection whilst maintaining physical health!

If you are stuck for ideas, then here are a few suggestions below:

  • Think about your community. What is lacking? Could you start a club or a coffee morning that would benefit you and others?
  • Prioritise friendship over work. Never let work become your life. Make time every week to catch up with friends over a coffee.
  • Don’t wait for social invites. Create social occasions more often. Invite friends around for dinner. Make it a pact that you do this once a month.
  • Wear your trainers, don’t ditch them. Never under-estimate the social connection available in a fitness class. Many fitness instructors organise regular social gatherings for their class members too.
  • Volunteer and immerse yourself in community spirit. Helping others will also help your health.
  • Do not look for people of a particular age, but of a particular spirit. (Some of my most valued friends are in their 80’s).
  • Keep a record for 1 month of the hours that you spend working and the hours that you spend socialising. This can be very revealing and motivate you to create more social connection as a result!

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