We try to watch what we eat, we go to the gyms to stay fit, we reduce the number of glasses of wine we get each week, we hope our genetics will help where our lifestyle fails to be up to par. However, more and more research is pointing toward a different factor that will ultimately define how long we will live, how healthy we will stay, and how happy we will feel. Can you guess?
Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a researcher at Brigham Young University, ran an extensive study that involved tens of thousands of middle-aged men and women to understand what reduced their chances of dying the most. Then she ranked top predictors strongly associated with longevity. It turned out that health-related factors like being lean vs. overweight, exercising or not, etc. are important but they didn’t make it to the top of the list.
Top 2 strongest predictors involved interaction with other people: close relationships that support you in bad times, and – surprisingly – daily social interactions, both personal and casual, like the corner store owner you get your snack from, or the woman walking her dog on your street every day. But here is the key – it only counts if it’s a face-to-face contact, so frequent texting with your loved ones will not be a good substitute. But “simply making eye contact with somebody, shaking hands, giving somebody a high-five”, as Susan Pinker states in her well-known TED talk about longevity, is enough to increase your trust and lower your stress. It even triggers a release of dopamine, a body’s natural high that can reduce pain!
Modern society leaves little opportunity for seniors to stay socially connected, especially if they are home bound. So, what if you do not live close to your elderly parents and cannot see them often enough? You can give them a gift of that essential social interaction via regular visits by a caregiver while you are away. Call us at North Oakland Caregivers to discuss your situation, we can help.