Why friendships are good for your health

Heart Walk 21BEING808 STAFF

What does it take to live a long life?

Eating healthy and exercising are definitely part of the equation. But so is making and keeping social connections.

A new study from Brigham Young University scientists shows loneliness and social isolation are just as much a threat to longevity as obesity.

Yes, obesity.

“We need to start taking our social relationships more seriously,” Julianne Holt-Lunstad, lead author of the study, said in a news release.

Holt-Lunstad said different types of loneliness and social isolation all affected health negatively. In other words, you could be hurting your health even if you’re surrounded by friends but feel lonely. Those who isolate themselves by choice because they prefer to be alone also had health risks.

Tim Smith, co-author of the study, said in a news release that the findings come as more people are living alone and feeling isolated from their communities.

The authors analyzed data from a variety of health studies. Altogether, the sample included more than 3 million participants from studies that included data for loneliness, social isolation, and living alone.

They found that the lack of social connections presents an added risk to health, and the existence of relationships provides a positive health effect.

“In essence, the study is saying the more positive psychology we have in our world, the better we’re able to function,” Smith said, “not just emotionally but physically.”

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