Does Social Networking help us live longer?
Can social networking sites like facebook and myspace actually help us live longer? Facebook claims to have over 400 Million active users and that the average user has 130 friends. As of yet, no studies have examined a direct connection between online social networking and physical health but there are decades of research demonstrating links between social support and health.
“The more connected you are with other people the healthier you will be both physically and emotionally. The less connected you are the less meaningful your life”. This from a study by C. Norman Shealy, M.D. and Carolyn Myss, Ph.D., they found that love and being loved is a factor in improving the immune system, adding to life expectancy and creating overall happiness. Their research shows that even bad habits like smoking and overeating have less of an impact on those who are relationally connected and have a loving support system.
Another study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, ran for 10 years and was done on the older population of South Australia. It also found that people who keep up with their BFFs have longer life expectancies.
In the study researchers collected the names of men and women over age 70 from electoral rolls and recruited 1,477 to be in the study. Using surveys and questionnaires, they asked participants to rate the quality of their relationships with their children, other relatives, friends, and confidants and how frequently participants had contact with those individuals. To control for other potential contributors to premature death, researchers also asked about their health problems and other lifestyle factors (smoking, drinking, or depression, for instance). After 10 years, roughly 40 percent of the original participants were still living. The authors found that those who remained were more likely in their survey responses to have reported having friends and confidants than did the individuals who had subsequently died.
Being social and having deep connectedness with other people is what we we are made for and its an indispensable condition for human flourishing. Although simply having a rolodex full on names or thousands of friends on your Facebook profile won’t guarantee you a longer life, the evidence certainly seems to be clear that as human beings we are hardwired to connect with others and that those who master the skill of cultivating great friendships will live the most rewarding and fulfilling lives.