Updated: Mar 5, 2019
A few minutes on the internet, television or listening to radio and we can be bombarded with products, services, instructions and recommendations for eating well, weight management, exercising or medication.
While these are all important to improving and maintaining your overall health, research shows that these things do not make it to the top of the list of predictors of longevity and health well into your later years.
Three presentations of independent studies show one common factor that predicts being healthier longer, happier and living a meaningful life above all else. That common factor is social engagement.
The impact of social engagement can be especially powerful after a health event or declining health due to a physical or cognitive impairment.
Author of “The Village Effect”, Susan Pinker presented the findings of an in-depth research by Brigham Young University study and her own professional research of healthy centenarians (people 100 year or more). She shared that the top two predictors of life expectancy by a wide margin is social integration and close relationships.
Social engagement ranks significantly higher than the other aspects included on the list of top ten factors. Engagement surpasses exercise, quitting smoking and drinking as well as whether a person is lean vs. overweight. Susan’s own research of the small Italian village on the island of Sardinia which boasts the highest number of centenarians in the entire world also proves this fact. Those who live in this small village have a much higher than average amount of meaningful engagement due of living within close proximity to family, friends and neighbors they know very well.
Scientist and author of The Life Project, Helen Pearson, also found engagement to be the common factor. Her Ted Talk presentation shared the findings from the longest, most in depth study ever conducted of human development. This study began in 1946, spans over 70 years that now includes intimate details of 70,000 individual’s lives since birth. It concluded that the quality and amount of engagement is the most dominate factor for how well these individuals thrived in all aspects of their lives as they aged regardless of the economic status they were born into.
The third presentation by Emily Esfahani Smith entitled “There’s more to life than being happy” describes the findings of her 5 year study on volumes of existing research as well as her own in depth personal interviews leading her to discover and publish “The Four Pillars of a Meaningful Life”. Pillar one and two, Belonging and Purpose both support the significance of the amount of face to face engagement has on your life.
While much focus is given and rightly so to diet, medication, and physical therapy when circling the wagons of support and care after a significant health issue, the lesson here is to be sure that engaging your loved one is also a top priority.
Mary Lou Nowak, Owner of MidSouth Home Helpers specializes in providing mature engaging caregivers to help people with activities of daily life.