Close friends make longer life more likely

Friends, not family, are the key to a longer life, a new study suggests.
While previous research has found that strong social networks help older people live longer, the work had not distinguished between contact with friends or relatives.
The new study followed almost 1500 Australians, initially aged over 70. Those who at the start reported regular close personal or phone contact with five or more friends were 22% less likely to die in the next decade than those who had reported fewer, more-distant friends. But the presence or absence of close ties with children or other relatives had no impact on survival.
The reasons are not entirely clear. Friends and confidantes might help with coping in times of stress and difficulty, the team suggests. They might also encourage healthy behaviours, such as seeking help for new medical symptoms. “And friends are perhaps less likely to be a source of negative stress, which, for some older people, their children can be,” says Lynne Giles of Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, who led the work.
It is possible that close connections with friends might have a positive physiological effect on the body, in contrast to the negative effect caused by stress, adds Carlos Mendes de Leon of the Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, US, in an editorial accompanying the paper.
Posted by Emma Young in “NewScientist”
Journal reference: Journal of Epidemiological and Community Health (vol 59, p 538)
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