Self-sufficiency is a highly valued personal characteristic for many Americans. However, the health benefits of this characteristic remain unclear. A recent study aimed to compare the impact on longevity of being self-sufficient versus seeking advice.
The researchers used data from more than 6,000 participants in the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States. They examined participants’ level of social support from family and friends, their level of self-sufficiency (i.e., not relying on others for help), and their advice-seeking tendencies, as well as any reported health conditions. This information was then compared with mortality data from 20 years later.
They found that, even after accounting for level of social support and reported health conditions, greater advice-seeking was associated with a greater likelihood of living longer. Self-sufficiency, on the other hand, had no effect on longevity.
While self-sufficiency is highly valued by many, knowing when to seek advice from others seems to be more important from a personal health perspective. Seeking advice may help older adults make more informed decisions about their health, allowing them to remain healthier for longer.
Another important takeaway is that this effect went beyond the benefits of social support, meaning it is more beneficial to actively seek help from others when it is needed.
This study only examined the relationship between advice-seeking and longevity, so it wasn’t clear if these adults are merely surviving longer, or if they are living longer, healthier lives. Additionally, future research will need to investigate how this finding applies to a wider demographic, as the participants in this sample were more likely to be white, female, and more highly educated than the general population.
Delaney RK, Turiano NA, and Strough J. Living longer with help from others: Seeking advice lowers mortality risk. Journal of Health Psychology (2018); 23(12): 1590-1597.