Learn to Be Social — It's Good for You

Monday, 09 Aug 2010 09:02 AM

By Dr. Laura

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I’ve said it so many times . . .  but here it is again: Loneliness is a voluntary condition.

Here’s a big announcement: Social isolation (loneliness) is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, being an alcoholic, not exercising, and twice as harmful as obesity.

Bottom line: the lack of social support should be added to the short list of risk factors for an early grave.

This analysis comes from scientists from Brigham Young University in Utah. “When someone is connected to a group and feels responsibility for other people, that sense of purpose and meaning translates to taking better care of themselves and taking fewer risks.” Relationships help buffer negative/stressful events in life, helping us cope during difficult times and celebrating our joys and successes.

The link between living longer and having social connections (friends and family and marriage and children) remained even after the researchers took into account the sex, initial health, and cause of death of those in the study. The negative and positive of relationships are all averaged together.

People who never marry are more likely to die young than those who marry or divorce.

I am always telling people to stay married for the sake of the children. Many either don’t care or discount the impact of divorce on children. If you won’t stay together for the children . . . stay together for yourself. You will live longer!

Human beings need relationships to keep them healthy — no different that they need to commit to healthy lifestyle habits such as regular exercise, sound diet, appropriate medical attention, etc.

We’re not talking about friends of the social-networking variety. These drive-by so-called friendships lack the depth and texture of really one-on-one committed caring and care-taking.

So remember — people with greater social relationships are 50 percent more likely to live longer than those who don’t invest in relationships and make life more interesting, sweet, touching, and meaningful.

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