Your Girlfriends Can Help You Live Longer

A strong social network is as good for you as quitting smoking

What’s more harmful than not exercising, twice as bad for you as being obese and as deadly as smoking 15 cigarettes a day?

Did you guess eating a tub of Crisco, too? Well, you’re probably onto something, but that’s not the answer to our pop quiz. The thing that doubles your risk of dying prematurely is failing to spend time with friends and loved ones.

According to a new study in the journal PLoS Medicine, being a loner isn’t just bad for you -- it can kill you. Strong social connections to friends, family, coworkers and your community, on the other hand, can increase your life expectancy by 50 percent.

According to the authors, Julianne Holt-Lunstad and Timothy Smith, psychology professors at Brigham Young University, social ties can boost health by adding support, comfort and meaning to your life.

"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," Holt-Lunstad said in a statement.

Unfortunately, the authors write that the quantity and quality of social relationships in cultures like the U.S. are decreasing. In the past 20 years, the number of Americans who report having no one to confide in has tripled. Now that’s just sad.

For the study, the researchers analyzed 148 studies involving a total of 308,849 participants, and followed them for an average of seven and a half years. People with good social relationships had a 50 percent greater chance of survival during that time period, compared to people with poor or insufficient connections. They also found that people who had the broadest range of social activities and relationships were buoyed by an even greater longevity—as much as 90 percent. According to the study, the protective benefits of reaching out to friends or getting involved in your church or community are akin to quitting smoking. If that's not a ready-made excuse as to why you deserve a night out with the girls, I don't know what is. “Honey, I need you to watch the kids tonight, so I can grab dinner with my girlfriends and increase my chances of meeting our grandchildren. Is that okay with you?” Yes, I thought so.

How often do you spend time with family or friends? Chime in below!

Like This? Read These:
- Outgoing Nature Could Get You to 100
- Getting Over a Friendship "Breakup"
- Friends with Benefits: How Pals Keep You Healthy
- 7 Ways to Strengthen Your Emotional Health

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