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Can Friends Help You Live Longer Than Family?

There's no question how much a positive mental attitude can affect your health for the good and that social contact plays a huge role in that process. It may surprise you to learn, however, it's the contact you have with close friends -- and not your family -- that may help you live a longer life, according to Australian researchers.

To assess how economic, social, behavioral and environmental factors affected the health and well being of seniors older than 69, scientists asked some 1,500 people about the amount of personal and phone contact they had with their various social networks, including children, relatives, friends and confidants and monitored their survival at least six times over a decade. The impacts of factors influencing survival rates -- socioeconomic status, health and lifestyle -- were also considered.

Surprisingly, close contact with children and relatives had little impact on survival rate of seniors over the 10-year span of the study. But a strong network of friends and confidants significantly improved the chances of survival. In fact, those with the strongest network of friends and confidants lived longer than those with the fewest.

Moreover, that longevity persisted over the decade despite a host of life-altering changes, including the death of a spouse or the relocation of friends to faraway places.

Other advantages of having good friends as well as being one yourself:

  • They can influence the decisions you make about your health -- for example suggesting my Web site as a valuable, trusted information resource so you can learn about treating a health condition safely and effectively.
  • Friends may better help you cope with the challenges life throws at you from time-to-time and build better self-esteem.

Yahoo News June 16, 2005

Science Blog June 16, 2005

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