Thursday, May 2, 2002
Long life connected to social ties
A story released today by Reuters reports that according to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health reports that men who have a large number of friends, relatives and other social ties may live a longer, healthier life than their socially isolated peers.
"Staying healthy and living longer is not simply a matter of practicing good health habits or getting good medical care," said study author Dr. Ichiro Kawachi of Boston, Massachusetts.
Kawachi, director of the Harvard Center for Society and Health, and his colleagues investigated the effect of social ties, death and heart disease, in a 10-year follow-up study of 28,369 male health professionals aged 42 to 77 years. Roughly half of the men reported belonging to large social networks that included a spouse, a large number of friends or relatives, and/or community group involvement.
Socially isolated men were 53% more likely to die from a heart-related cause than those who reported the highest number of social ties, the researchers report. Further, those with a moderately low number of social connections had a more than two-fold greater risk of death from accidents and suicides than did their peers with the most social ties.
The investigators also identified more than 1,800 cases of heart disease that were diagnosed during the study period, including 239 heart disease-related or sudden cardiac deaths. Again, socially isolated men had an 82% higher risk of death from heart disease than their peers, the report indicates.
Overall, married men reportedly had a lower risk of death from any cause and a greater than two-fold reduced risk of death from accidents and suicides than their unmarried peers.
In light of the findings, which Kawachi said most likely applies to women as well as men, "healthcare workers and social workers should pay attention to their clients' social situation as much as their cholesterol levels or blood pressure levels."
The researcher concludes that "social isolation is a 'risk factor' for ill health that deserves as much attention as other risk factors for cardiovascular disease and other ailments."