The study showed older adults who have close relationships with non-spousal family members only had a 6% risk of death compared to 14% for those who didn't.
As highly social animals, our relationships with those around us are extremely important for our general mental well-being, happiness and even how long we live. While the friendships we form are thought to be more important than anything, a new study has found it’s our relationships with family members that are key to a longer life.
The study, that will be presented at the 111th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA), was conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Toronto. They found a strong connection between older adults and the quality of their close family relationships with a lessened likelihood of death. The same couldn’t be said for friendships no matter how close and high quality they were.
“We found that older individuals who had more family in their network, as well as older people who were closer with their family, were less likely to die.” stated study lead author, James Iveniuk. “No such associations were observed for number of or closeness to friends.”
The study itself involved asking older adults to list five of their closest relationships in their life describing the nature of the relationship and how close they felt they were to them. The results found that those who felt they were not closer to non-spousal family members had an 8 percent higher risk than those who did – making them 14 percent at risk of death overall. Those having closer relationships to family members only had a 6 percent risk of death overall.
However, close friendships did not give the same benefits which was a surprising result from the study.
“Because you can choose your friends, you might, therefore, expect that relationships with friends would be more important for mortality, since you might be better able to customize your friend network to meet your specific needs,” Iveniuk said. “But that account isn’t supported by the data ― it is the people who in some sense you cannot choose, and who also have little choice about choosing you, who seem to provide the greatest benefit to longevity.”