In an intake session with a new client I always ask about their social support. I’ve always known how important a strong support network and social relationships are for psychological well-being. It turns out that social relationships are also incredible important for health and longevity in general. A recent meta-analysis conducted by Brigham Young University (BYU) of 148 studies on the social habits of over 300,000 people found that people with stronger social ties had a 50% lower chance of dying over a given period. In statistical terms, that’s a significant different. In layman’s terms, that’s a HUGE difference.
Just how important are social relationships? Well, the difference is comparable to other well-established factors of mortality, such as smoking, lack of exercise, and obesity. Past research had difficulty determining if these differences were simply due to the fact that healthy people are able to be more socially active. In the BYU study, researchers were able to control for a person’s health and determine that even for unhealthy persons the benefits of social relationships was still evident.
Importantly, the effect were strongest for people who had varied and complex social relationships, that is, people with strong family ties, strong friendships, and strong relationships in the workplace. Any single relationships (e.g. just being married) was not predictive of increased survival.