Does your circle dictate your health? A new study from researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill says yes. In fact, the study’s two decades of research indicates that there is a causal relationship between your crew and how long you live because your social integration is related to your physical condition. That means that although you can’t just kick your workout regimen and healthy diet to the curb, you should make sure that you have a social life. It’s as important as how active we are and what we choose to eat.
“Based on these findings, it should be as important to encourage adolescents and young adults to build broad social relationships and social skills for interacting with others as it is to eat healthy and be physically active,” said UNC-Chapel Hill professor Kathleen Mullan Harris in a press release.
What defines a healthy social circle, however, changes as you age. Here’s how having friends affects your health at different life stages, according to the study:
Contrary to what your mother may have told you, the number of friends you have in your youth is actually important. According to the study, social isolation in adolescence increased both the risk of inflammation and cardiovascular disease in adulthood.
Young Adulthood to Mid-life
For most of your life, the importance of social interaction is about quality over quantity: having good friends. You don’t necessarily need a lot of them. Adults that feel more connected to others have a lower risk of inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.
The Senior Years
As you reach your sixties, the number of friends you have around you becomes important again. Although you become naturally more inclined to acquire a chronic disease as you age, seniors who are around a lot of people are less likely to hypertension and other such diseases.