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Carnegie Mellon researchers discover social integration improves lung function in elderly
Date:6/2/2014

PITTSBURGHIt is well established that being involved in more social roles, such as being married, having close friends, close family members, and belonging to social and religious groups, leads to better mental and physical health. However, why social integration the total number of social roles in which a person participates influences health and longevity has not been clear.

New research led by Carnegie Mellon University shows for the first time that social integration impacts pulmonary function in the elderly. Lung function, which decreases with age, is an important physiological quality that affects cardiovascular disease, asthma and other lung disorders. Published in the American Psychological Association's Health Psychology journal, this study also rebuffs the popular notion that marriage is the only social role required for health benefits. In fact, different social relationships can be substituted for each other and every added social role improves health.

"We knew that when older adults have friends and family and belong to groups, they have lower mortality rates and less disease and illness risk, but now we can start to understand why that happens," said Sheldon Cohen, the Robert E. Doherty University Professor of Psychology in CMU's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. "We also answer critical questions about the importance of marriage for health. It has been suggested that marriage and things that typically come with it such as kids and family is the only social role that matters. The bottom line is that marriage is not required for better health it is the total number of social roles that predicts improved health."

For the study, the research team analyzed data collected from 1,147 healthy adults between the ages of 70 and 79 who participated in the MacArthur Study of Successful Aging. The data included a measure of the participants' social roles and assessed their pulmonary function accordin
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Contact: Shilo Rea
shilo@cmu.edu
412-260-0675
Carnegie Mellon University
Source:Eurekalert

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