The secret to living longer…

I saw a link to a recent TED talk the other day called ‘The secret to living longer may be your social life’…

I thought to myself … great! I’m going to live forever - time to call one of lads and head to the pub. Better yet, I’ve even got a get out of jail free card to show the missus when I get home - this TED talk actually says that I am going to live longer by having a good social life! Don’t you want me to live longer babe?!?!

But then I actually watched the TED talk, which is well delivered by psychologist Susan Pinker, and the vivid images of boozy weekends with friends started to fall apart bit by bit …

Turns out that giving up drinking was actually the 4th strongest predictor of staying alive (just below quitting smoking for you smokers out there, which was at number 3).

I know right … damn! There goes my dream of living forever, beer in hand.

But what the list truly reveals, is absolutely fascinating.

The Top 10 were (listed from strongest to weakest predictor of a long life):

  1. Social Integration
  2. Close relationships
  3. Quit smoking
  4. Quit boozing
  5. Flu Vaccine
  6. Cardiac Rehab
  7. Exercise
  8. Lean vs Overweight
  9. Hypertension Resuscitation
  10. Clean air

Yes, you read that correctly, sitting right up the top of the list of the strongest predictors of not dying, are close relationships and social integration. Above the flu vaccine, above exercise, above having access to clean air … close relationships and social integration. Wow.

Susan goes on to define exactly what close relationships and social integration mean.

Close relationships are those with people that you can borrow money from in a time of need. The people who worry about your health, listen to your problems, sit with you when all you need is someone to sit with you. The people who feel like home.

Social integration on the other hand, is how much you interact with people as you move through your day. How many people you talk to - whether it is your partner, your child, your colleague, or just some random person in an elevator. Your overall level of human interaction is the strongest possible predictor for staying alive.

Please note that neither the TED talk or this article are suggesting that you should give up exercising or stop trying to lose weight … quite the opposite in fact!

But they do serve as an interesting reminder to prioritise the relationships you have with those around you - whether bonded by family or a fleeting moment in a hallway.

Take the time to catch up with an old friend. Make the effort to have a weekly date night with your partner. Go out of your way to ask your barista how their day is going. Stop just thinking about joining that social touch footy team and actually do it!

You never know, you might just live longer if you do.

P.S. At the very start of the TED talk, Susan also mentions that everywhere in the developed world, women live between 6 - 8 years longer than men. That is a huge gap! And judging by the rest of the findings, one can only assume that has a lot to do with their ability to create and maintain strong relationships and social bonds. So, we have some catching up to do, gents. Get out there and maintain those relationships - social, intimate or otherwise!

Listen to the full TED talk here. It’s brilliant.

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