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Friendships warm and enrich our lives. And as it turns out, when we are old, they help keep us healthy and in our right minds.
A study that was published in the August 31, 2010 online issue of Psychosomatic Medicine revealed that satisfying relationships may be linked to less depression, better recovery from conditions like stroke, and less cognitive deterioration in older people.
Older folks who had less social sense of connection and support were also more prone to greater challenges from coronary heart disease, cancer and cardiovascular diseases, and they were more likely to die at an earlier age.
This research is encouraging in terms of prevention or better management of Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia. In the greater scheme of things though, it's also a valuable piece of information for those bent on aging well.
According to research from the Centre for Ageing Studies at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, people live longer when they have networks of friends, more than as a consequence of close family relationships.
The study indicated that close relationships with relatives did not affect length of life though. People with more close friends outlived those with less friends by 22 percent.
The research concluded that "a sense of social embeddedness" because of connections to friends and family, is vital. Connection to friends seems to especially important for living longer.
From 2005 to 2006, researchers at the University of Chicago conducted the Kansas City Study of Adult Life. The study results indicated that after retirement, many people tend to drop some networks, focusing instead on smaller social networks which afford greater closeness and personal satisfaction.
People in this stage of life also tend to become more involved with their neighbors, their religious affiliations and volunteer work they are personally invested in. More satisfaction and consequently a greater sense of well-being appears to be a result of quality of connection, as opposed to quantity.