A new study shows that close family relationships are more important than friends when it comes to adding extra years to life.
The researchers discovered that the elders who were close to their families had a 6% risk of dying in the following five years. On the other hand, the old adults who had not very close family relationships had a 14% death risk in five years.
While social relationships are all important, the scientists suggest that blood connections may be more important than friends when it comes to the general wellbeing.
Family vs. Friends
Another result of the research was that people who were not that close to their family were also more prone to heart attacks and strokes.
The explanation may be that people expect different things from family and friends. For instance, the family is expected to offer care, especially in moments when a person is overwhelmed, stressed, or have health problems.
When it comes to friends, they are supposed to be more fluctuant and to come in and out periodically from one’s network. The behavior of friends is also very heavily impacted by how a person behaves socially. Therefore, individuals who are ill and do not find themselves to be very comfortable out in society tend to have fewer friends.
The participants in the study have described having an average of three confidants, and they were happy with the level of support received from their social network. Most of the people in the study were in good health, they were married, and did not report feeling lonely.
More specifically, the participants who had a numerous network of family members reported also having a low death risk.
The four factors that are important in lowering the risk of premature death are being married, a large network of family and friends, having an active social life and feeling close to one’s confidants.
However, the researchers warn that the findings should not be generalized. Some families can cause frustration, can become a burden, or they even can turn out to be abusive. Elderly people should not associate with their blood connections only because they are family.
Another issue is that family should be extended as a concept beyond marriage and blood relationships, as many people find long-term friends to be just as close to them.
The medical experts explain that the patients who are in their 80s and 90s are often divorced and have new families. A large majority of them have relationships that are not formalized. They also tend to move away from the traditional setting and try homosexual or transgender relations.
Image Source: Flickr