Frequent socializing linked to longer lifespan in adults 60+

Frequent socializing may extend the lifespan of older people, suggests a recent study of more than 28,000 Chinese people. Socializing nearly every day seems to be the most beneficial for a long life, meaning active-aging organizations may want to increase their efforts to get constituents out of their homes and into relevant social groups.

Most of the evidence for the health benefits of socializing is based on people in Western countries, with little published data on people in Asia, according to the study authors. To try to plug this knowledge gap, the researchers analyzed data from participants in the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey (CLHLS), a nationally representative study of older people living independently, which began collecting socialization data in 2002. The analysis includes close to 30,000 people with an average age of 89 in 2019.

Overall, more frequent social activity was associated with significantly longer survival. The greater the frequency, the greater the likelihood of living longer. Up to 5 years from the start of the monitoring period, standardized death rates were 18.4 per 100 people monitored for a year among those who never socialized; 8.8 among those who did so occasionally; 8.3 among those who did so at least monthly; 7.5 among those who socialized at least once a week; and 7.3 among those who did so nearly every day.

Time to death was delayed by 42% in those who socialized occasionally, by 48% in those who did at least monthly, by 110% in those who did so at least weekly, and by 87% in those who did so nearly every day, compared with those who said they never socialized.

A threshold effect was evident: only socializing nearly every day was associated with significantly longer survival in this group, among whom time to death was delayed by 204%.

Factors associated with being more socially active were male sex, younger age, a higher level of education, marriage, living in a town/city and/or with relatives, and actual/self-rated good health.

When the data were further stratified by age, social activity seemed to be even more strongly associated with extended survival within the first 5 years for the oldest old, suggesting that strategies to promote the maintenance of an active social life in very old people, should be encouraged, the researchers said.

SOURCES:, BMJ (March 5, 2023); Wing Z, et al. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2023;77:277-284.