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This Overlooked Factor Influences Longevity

In a recent study, researchers examined the living habits of a group of female macaque monkeys living off the coast of Puerto Rico. They found that the monkeys with the strongest social connection to another monkey were 11% less likely to die over the course of a year.


Study author Dr. Sam Ellis explained, “Having favored partners could be beneficial in multiple ways, including more effective cooperation and ‘exchange’ activities such as grooming and forming coalitions.” He continued, “Many species – including humans – use social interactions to cope with challenges in their environment, and a growing number of studies show that well-connected individuals are healthier and safer than those who are isolated.”

Like monkeys, human beings are social creatures. Loneliness and isolation can end up affecting health — and longevity.

According to some of the most recent statistics, loneliness is at “epidemic” levels in the U.S., with 46% of adults saying they sometimes or always feel lonely. Historically, mankind survived by banding together and working as a group. Survival often depended on being part of a tribe. When feeling disconnected from community, anxiety and depression arise.

Loneliness is associated with higher blood pressure and higher risk of diseases such as heart disease, stroke, dementia, depression and lower survival rates for breast cancer patients. According to two recent meta analyses, loneliness is more hazardous to your health than obesity, and it can raise your risk of early death by as much as 50%.

If you struggle with loneliness, you're certainly not alone. The question is what to do about it. Joining a club, volunteering, enrolling in a class to learn a new skill or hobby, attending a support group or adopting a pet may help improve your emotional state, among other things. For more tips on how to combat loneliness and improve your health, click here.