“That’s What Friends Are for…” The Role of Satisfying Social Relationships in Older Adult Mortality

Since the release of the results from the long-term happiness study that was started at Harvard University in 1938, a trending topic for aging has become relationships! Platonic or not, there seems to be some evidence that having healthy and supportive relationships in life results in adults feeling happier and more satisfied with their lives as they age. A study published in General Psychiatry is adding a new perspective to this research trend by doubling down on the results, especially for older women. 

 This study specifically set out to look at mortality and chronic conditions as related to social relationships, specifically amongst the demographic group of women. Data collection started in 1996, from 694 women aged 45-50, were analyzed. Their social relationship satisfaction was measured every three years. There were five types of social relationships that were specifically looked at: partner, family, friends, work, and social activities. The results after a 20-year period were promising; women that reported higher satisfaction in relationships had lower chances of accumulated multimorbidity conditions compared to women that reported lower satisfaction in relationships. These findings were stable across all five types of relationships. Other factors such as socioeconomic status were looked at as well, but those factors combined only explained about 22% of the association between social relationship satisfaction and multimorbidity accumulation. 

 The researchers behind this study believe this is solid evidence that social satisfaction with relationships is associated with mortality, and that having higher satisfaction in relationships (platonic or romantic) seems to have a real effect on women physically. They urge the notion that social connections be considered a public health priority as disease intervention or even prevention.

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Xu, X., Mishra, G. D., Holt-Lunstad, J., & Jones, M. (2023). Social relationship satisfaction and accumulation of chronic conditions and multimorbidity: a national cohort of Australian women. General Psychiatry, 36(1), e100925. https://gpsych.bmj.com/content/gpsych/36/1/e100925.full.pdf  

Self-Fulfilling ProphecyHow Perceptions of Aging Affect Our Later Years

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