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Close Ties With Others Might Lengthen Life, Review Finds
Date:7/27/2010

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, July 27 (HealthDay News) -- Family and friends may do more than provide companionship: They also may boost your longevity, making as much of a difference as not smoking, a new analysis of studies suggests.

Researchers combined the results of 148 studies and estimated that adults with strong personal relationships may live an average of almost 4 years longer than those with weaker social ties.

The analysis doesn't prove that relationships directly help people live longer, but it seems clear that "our relationships come with more than just emotional benefits," said study author Julianne Holt-Lunstad, an associate professor of psychology at Brigham Young University.

"They can influence our longevity and our health," she added.

The study is published in the July issue of PLoS medicine.

Holt-Lunstad and colleagues examined studies involving almost 309,000 people on the effects of relationships -- such as those with friends, family, roommates and spouses -- on life span. The studies, conducted in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia, followed people for an average of 7.5 years.

"Among adults over age 18, those with strong social relationships are likely to live an average of 3.7 years longer than those with weaker social relationships," said study co-author Timothy Smith, a psychology professor at Brigham Young University.

The effect held up even when researchers adjusted their figures for factors such as age and health status.

It appears that strong relationships had an effect comparable to that of quitting smoking and a greater effect than known risk factors such as obesity and alcohol abuse, Holt-Lunstad said.

The challenge now is to put this information to good use, said the authors, who noted that in this era of technology, the quantity and quality of relationships seems to be decreasing.

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