Research: This Is an Even Better Predictor of Long Life Than Marriage

Data from multiple recent studies might give you great inspiration to engage in your social life, even as winter draws near...

Genetic factors aside, research shows there are a few key behaviors you can adopt to help ensure a long, healthy life. A few of the well-known ways are diet, exercise, rich and restful sleep, and a loving partnership. Relationships are so key for longevity that even recent research from Harvard revealed that individuals who were satisfied with their relationships at age 50 tended to be healthier at age 80.

Another recent study suggests this trend isn’t limited to romance, but spans all kinds of relationships—especially friendships. In fact, more and more research is showing that strong, caring friendships can significantly boost health, well-being, and possibly even lifespan.

Research on the impact of friendships and well-being

A study involving 323,200 participants in 99 countries highlighted the profound impact of friendships on health. The research, published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Psychology, shows a positive correlation between prioritizing friendships and enhanced mental and physical health, with cultural factors adding a layer of complexity to these associations.

In addition, a 2023 systematic review of research from 2000 to 2019 provided a perspective on the link between adult friendships and well-being. The review highlighted the positive correlation between friendship quality, socializing, and well-being, showing the importance of forming and nurturing these bonds.

The number of friends, their positive reactions, support of autonomy, and efforts to maintain the friendship all emerged as factors positively correlated with various dimensions of overall health, illustrating the multifaceted ways friendships can affect happiness.

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Meanwhile, it’s clear that many Americans prize great friendships for the gems they are. Data from a 2023 Pew Research Center survey revealed that 61% of respondents considered friendships critical for a fulfilling life, compared to 23% for marriage. Even among married individuals, friendships held a cherished place, perhaps pointing to a potential shift toward a more inclusive understanding of relationships.

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Dr. Patricia Varacallo, DO
Tricia is a doctor of osteopathy with experience in primary healthcare. She received her medical degree from the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and conducts clinical research in Sports Medicine and Orthopedics, as she is motivated by the desire to contribute to the development of innovative treatments and therapies. She is also a certified lifestyle coach for the CDC-recognized National Diabetes Prevention Program, empowering individuals to make lasting, healthy lifestyle changes. Dr. Varacallo loves to write— especially about health, wellness, and grief. Drawing from her own experiences of loss and caregiving, she loves to offer support and encouragement to those navigating their own grief journeys. Outside of her professional life, she enjoys traveling and exploring the sunny beaches of Florida with her significant other, always ready for their next adventure.