Sometimes it's not easy to stay in touch with friends and distant family members, but there's every reason in the world to do it. Not only do tight friendships and strong family offer an emotional connection, research shows when we have close ties, especially with upbeat buddies, we're more likely to take better care of ourselves, feel less stressed—even live longer.
A research team at Brigham Young University in Utah reviewed 148 studies that tracked the social interactions and health of 308,849 people over an average of 7.5 years. From these they worked out how death rates varied depending on how sociable a person was. Their conclusion? Being alone and isolated was equivalent to being an alcoholic, was more harmful than not exercising, was twice as harmful as obesity and had the negative health impact of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
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