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August 18, 2021

Friends the key to a healthy future: report

Although there’s lots of research to suggest that being affluent is good for your health, having friends could serve you better in the long run.

In fact, maintaining strong social relationships — friends, marriage or children — may be every bit as helpful in living longer as quitting smoking, losing weight or taking required medications, say researchers at Brigham Young University in Utah.

Pooling data from research papers involving more than 300,000 men and women across the developed world, the research team found that those with poor social connections had on average 50% higher odds of death in the study's follow-up period (an average of 7.5 years) than people with more robust social ties.

Having low levels of social interaction was equivalent to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, being an alcoholic, more harmful than not exercising, and twice as harmful as being obese.

The different studies measured social interaction in different ways, so the researchers admit that it’s difficult to precisely define its effects other than to say they are almost universally positive.

"Our social relationships are important not only to our quality of life, but also our longevity,” says Julianne Holt-Lunstad, one of the report’s authors.

“Throughout human history, we have relied on others for survival such as protection and food, and despite modern advancements that may help with certain aspects of survival so that we can live more independently, it appears that our relationships nonetheless still impact odds of survival."

What do you think: Can your social circle really make that much of a difference?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...