AgingMatters from LeadingAge NJ

What Social Relationships can do for Health

February is Heart Month and our thoughts tend to turn to love and relationships. But it's not only the romantic relationships that impact our lives - social relationships have a major impact on our emotional and physical well-being. So, take this opportunity this month to reach out to an old friend or visit with a new one, and make yourself healthier in the process!

Healthy relationships help us as we age.
Social relationships have as much impact on physical health as blood pressure, smoking, physical activity, and obesity  (1988 House, Landis, and Umberson). The study findings showed a 50 percent increase in survival of people with robust social relationships, regardless of age, gender, country of origin, or how such relationships were defined.

Just as obesity has taken center stage in our cultural self-awareness, social relationships belong on the list of protective factors for a long and healthy life.

While aging is often accompanied by physical limitations, research shows 

aging is associated with what really matters - improved relationships.


Purdue University researchers say that part of what makes those relationships so golden during the golden years is that people of all ages are more likely to forgive and respect one's elders. (June 2010 Current Directions in Psychological Science).

Social relationships, whether with friends, family, colleagues or others, have been shown to not only improve improve psychological well-being but also physical health (Cohen 2004). While this is probably not new information to many of us, it is always a good reminder that a text, phone call, or visit can make all the difference to the person you are reaching out to - and you.

  • Write a letter to a friend or family member you have not connected with in a while; even if you don't get a response, the act of reaching out can help you feel better and more connected.
  • Use social media, such as Facetime or Skype, to connect. Whether ten minutes or one hour, sometimes a few minutes of face-to-face (even on a computer) communication can make a difference.
  • Read a favorite book that reminds you of old friends or colleagues.