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Monday, August 22, 2016

Close Relationships with family members, but not friends Increase Life Expectancy - New study

Family Ties

A new study that presented at the 111th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA) has revealed that having strong friendships with family members later in life is the key to decreasing the risk of dying.

"We found that older individuals who had more family in their network, as well as older people who were closer with their family were less likely to die," said James Iveniuk, the lead author of the study and a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health. "No such associations were observed for number of or closeness to friends."

To compare power of friendships versus family bonds, researchers analyzed data from 2005 to 2006 and followed up with a second round of data collection five years later. Participants between the ages of 57 to 85 years old were asked to list their five closest confidants, rate each one in terms of closeness, and to provide a detailed description of the relationships. After discounting husbands and wives, researchers crunched the numbers and found when older adults reported feeling “extremely close” to a family member, they had a 6 percent chances of dying within the next five years. Meanwhile, those who ranked family members are “not very close” had a 14 percent chance of dying.

Besides comparing friendships to relationships with family members, the study examined the characteristics of social networks in general and their association with mortality. The four factors most consistently associated with reduced mortality risk were being married, larger network size, greater participation in social organizations, and feeling closer to one's confidants, which all mattered to about the same degree. Factors found to be less important included time with confidants, access to social support, and feelings of loneliness.

"I expected the association between participation in social organizations and mortality to diminish in size considerably once we controlled for other aspects of peoples' social worlds, but that didn't happen," Iveniuk said.

Interestingly, marriage was found to have positive effects on longevity, regardless of marital quality. "We observed no association between measures of support from the spouse and mortality, indicating that the presence of a marital bond may be more important for longevity than certain aspects of the bond itself," Iveniuk said.

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