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Study Suggests Strong Social Ties Could Extend Life

Study Suggests Strong Social Ties Could Extend Life
7/29/2010 4:16 PM ET

A new report published in the journal PLoS Medicine suggests that having a strong family and social network could lead to a longer life.

According to Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad of Utah's Brigham-Young University, having many close relationships could have as great an impact on life expectancy as quitting tobacco use.

"Our social relationships are important not only to our quality of life, but also our longevity. Throughout human history, we have relied on others for survival such as protection and food, and despite modern advancements that may [help with] certain aspects of survival so that we can live more independently, it appears that our relationships nonetheless still impact odds of survival," Holt-Lunstad tells WebMD.

For the study, Holt-Lunstad and her team follow 308,849 for seven and a half years, finding that, on average, those with strong social connections were about 50 percent more likely to live longer than those without.

She adds that social contact could also be as important as weight loss or decreased alcohol use.

"Obesity is a public health problem that needs to be addressed through effective social programs and policies, [and] the same is true of alcoholism and high blood pressure," Holt-Lunstad says. "Our data make the case that strength of social relationships needs to be added to the list of public health concerns. "

by RTT Staff Writer

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