We all know that exercise and diet are important contributors to a long and healthy life. But there’s another factor, as or more important: the quality of our relationships.
“Good, close relationships appear to buffer us from the problems of getting old,” says Dr. Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Dr. Waldinger directs the Harvard Study of Adult Development. This research project, spanning eight decades, has followed more than 700 men since they were teenagers back in 1938. About sixty of them, now in their 90s, are still participating. The findings are consistent regardless of economic background:
• Men who are more socially connected to family, friends, and community are happier, healthier, and live longer.
• Those who are isolated, lonely or antisocial experienced health problems earlier in midlife; brain function declined sooner; and they don’t live as long as the socially connected men.
• Those who were most satisfied in their relationships at 50 were the healthiest at 80, and in better moods even on days of increased physical pain.
• Those with positive relationships experience less memory loss.
The really good news: it’s never too late to develop close relationships. Many of the men in the study who lost touch with their work buddies upon retirement made new friends by volunteering or taking up golf and other activities. Your association is a great resource to fill in gaps in your social life. Meanwhile, an expert from AMBA can help you protect your physical and financial health by filling in the gaps in your health coverage.
“Staying connected and involved is actually a form of self-care, just like exercise or eating right,” Dr. Waldinger concludes. “This is an important prescription for health.”