What does it take to age well? Most people I ask say some version of the following: a healthy diet, taking vitamins, staying in shape, and seeing a doctor for annual check-ups. The emphasis is always on physical health.
Nobody ever mentions the importance of an active social life.
According to research, spending most of your time alone and feeling lonely increase the risk of dying by 30 percent! This is true even for those who say they prefer to be alone. In other words, even loners like the character Greta Garbo played in Grand Hotel, whose famous line was, "I want to be alone. I just want to be alone," are at risk.
Social connections are good for you, whether you like it or not. As a recent article points out:
Even if you enjoy being by yourself, it just might kill you -- or at least shorten your life.
One of the most dependable, universal means to greater health and happiness is to simply socialize more. In fact, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, loneliness can be as bad for you as a smoking habit, shaving years off you life expectancy.
Yes, loneliness and social isolation are in the same category as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being obese. In fact, our social lives are better predictors of how long we will live than our eating and exercise habits.
That said, choose you friends well. As Buettner reminds us:
The quantity of social interaction is only half the of the prescription. Quality matters too. The sort of people we hang out with has an enormous and immeasurable benefit not only on how happy we are, but also on how fat or even lonely we are.
Surround yourself with people who have a positive influence on your life. Buettner recommends joining a social club or volunteering in order to cultivate your interests and foster connections with others.
According to one study, joining a group that meets even once a month produces the same happiness as doubling your income.
The brilliant Eric Barker bluntly explains the value of an active social life:
Relationships are worth more than you think (approximately an extra $131,232 a year). Not feeling socially connected can make you stupider and kill you.
Bottom line: If you want longevity and good health, it takes a village filled with good people. Best of all, this is a great excuse to drag your husband or partner to another dinner party.
For more information visit www.PositivePrescription.com.