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Social Interaction Essential for Longevity

Having strong social relationships may be the single most important aspect of staying healthy according to a large meta-analysis published in the July 2010 issue of the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Medicine.

Researchers at Brigham Young University in Utah conducted the meta-analysis which included 148 studies and over 300,000 participants.

The analysis showed that people with strong relationships were 50% less likely to die early compared to people who lacked strong social relationships. The association was so strong that social relationships were shown to have the same and/or stronger effect on the risk of mortality as other well known risk factors such as smoking and obesity.

More specifically, the researchers found that having a lack of social relationships was equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes per day, was more harmful than being an alcoholic and twice as harmful as obesity.

They also found that social relationships were more important for reducing the risk of premature death than getting a vaccine for pneumonia, being exposed to air pollution and taking medication for high blood pressure.

In addition, the researchers found that despite globalization and increases in social technology, Americans are becoming more and more isolated. The last two decades have seen a threefold increase in the number of Americans who report having no confidant.

Some good social activities that have been shown to keep your mind sharp as you age are playing cards, going to the movies or theater and partaking in artistic activities like crafts, quilting and sewing in a group setting.

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