Having good relationships with loved ones is associated with better brain health and longer life expectancy.
- Monthly or weekly interactions with family and friends reduce the risk of developing dementia.
- Living with other people and participating in community activities lowers the risk of death.
- Having good social relationships can “buffer” stress and encourage us to adopt healthy behaviors.
“Thanks to previous research, we know that social connections are important for our health and that isolation puts us at higher risk of dementia and death. Our goal is to determine which social connections protect us from cognitive decline and of death”, said Suraj Samtani, a clinical psychologist and researcher at the Center for Healthy Brain Aging (CHeBA) in Australia.
Examine social variables related to risk of dementia and death
In a recent study, the researcher and his team used data from 39,271 people aged 65 from 13 international cohorts conducted in low-, middle- and high-income countries. In detail, the scientists analyzed the information relating to the social ties of the participants. They were interested in the type of social connection (for example, being in a couple or married, the fact of carrying out community activities), the function (for example, social support, the fact of having a confidant ) and quality (for example, the level of satisfaction with the relationship). Next, the team checked whether the volunteers had developed mild cognitive impairment or dementia, or died, during the work. It also took into account other factors, such as age, gender, level of education or lifestyle.
Dementia: “frequent interactions with family and friends” reduce risk
According to the results, published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementiaadults with good social relationships were less likely to suffer from mild cognitive impairment, dementia, or die. “We found that frequent interactions – monthly or weekly – with family and friends and having someone to talk to reduced the risk of dementia. We also found that living with other people and participating in community activities reduced the risk of death”added Suraj Samtani.
But how to explain this? Social relationships, especially friendships and love, can have a “buffering effect” on stress, because “We confide in these people and feel supported. Stress management is important for brain health and overall health.” Another reason: our loved ones can encourage us to adopt healthy behaviors.
Engage in conversations and nurture healthy relationships to stay healthy
To be in better health and live longer, the authors advise to favor social interactions. “Try to see friends and family at least once a month, participate in community activities, such as volunteering, and open your heart to someone when you feel stressed. Living with other people, for example in an intergenerational home, is also helpful. Connecting with others helps us keep our bodies and minds healthy.” concluded Suraj Samtani in a statement.