People who regularly socialise with friends and family will live longer than their more isolated counterparts, according to a new study.
Those who fail to socialise risk being as unhealthy as a person who smokes 15 cigarettes a day or an alcoholic, while those who enjoy mingling are improving their chances of living longer by 50%, researchers at Brigham University in the US suggested.
In fact shying away from social situations can be more harmful than never exercising and twice as bad as the risks posed by obesity, according to the study.
Researchers Julianne Holt-Lunstad and Timothy Smith analysed data from 148 previously published longitudinal studies measuring the frequency of human interaction and tracked health outcomes for a period of seven and a half years on average.
Since the information on relationship quality was unavailable, the 50% increased odds of survival may underestimate the benefit of healthy relationships, they found.
Prof Holt-Lunstad said: “The idea that a lack of social relationships is a risk factor for death is still not widely recognised by health organisations and the public.
“When someone is connected to a group and feels responsibility for other people, that sense of purpose and meaning translates to taking better care of themselves and taking fewer risks.”
The study revealed friends and family influence health for the better in many ways, from providing a calming touch to finding meaning in life.
The study has been published in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal.