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The Health Benefits of Strong Relationships

| April 10, 2019
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The Proven Correlation Between the Size of Your Social Network and your Longevity.

A lot of research has been done on the health benefits of having strong relationships in your later years. Studies have shown a direct correlation between the size of your social network and your longevity. A Swedish study even found that only the correlation between our age and our health was as significant.

Further, researchers at Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill looked at a number of studies conducted in the developed world. The findings were clear: those with poor social connections had on average 50% higher odds of death in the study’s follow-up period (an average of 7.5 years) than people with more robust social ties.

The authors of the study also commented that the boost in longevity because of a strong social network is the same as the difference between non-smokers and smokers!

While the research is in its early stages, scientists have discovered that:

  • When we have close relationships with friends, we are more likely to take better care of ourselves.
  • Close personal relationships actually lower our stress levels by producing both dopamine and serotonin to counterbalance negative hormones.
  • Researchers also noted a drop in a patient’s blood pressure when a close friend accompanied him or her.
  • In another study in Sweden, researchers found that an individual over age 50 perceived less major stress events in his or life if there was a strong social network in place.
  • Social networks can also boost the immune system. A 2004 study at Carnegie Mellon University in the U.S. found that participants who were exposed to the cold virus and had a healthy and diverse social network were less likely to develop a cold than those with a weak social network.

What Kinds of Positive Relationships Contribute to Your Health?

The research says that nurturing and supportive relationships are more important to us than incidental contacts. But, incidental relationships still have value to you if they contribute to your social engagement.

The most positive contributors to your mental health come from your intimate relationships, including your spouse, soulmate, and those deep friendships that you have.  You can also add in your “good friends” and other people in your immediate social network. Even people you only periodically interact with such as people you golf with, work with or play with can have a positive effect on your mood and your health!

The Challenge of Making Friends

Making friends or building social relationships sounds easy, but for many people, it is not. Men seem to be naturally predisposed to keeping their own counsel rather than sharing their innermost thoughts with one another. It’s not that they can’t make new friends; rather, they often don’t recognize the need to do so. Also, people get busy and have other priorities that get in the way in very crowded calendars.

In retirement, some of those demands on your time are no longer there; this gives you the opportunity to create new relationships. While it sounds easy, you may have gone so long without building new relationships you may have forgotten how!

Certain personality traits are needed to create social relationships:

  1. You have to see the value of social relationships.
  2. You have to recognize the need to keep adding new relationships to replace those that you will inevitably lose.
  3. You have to believe that you have value as a friend and something to offer someone else.
  4. You have to like people and be open to interacting with them.
  5. You have to be willing to start conversations and learn about others.

As you look at these five traits, how would you measure yourself? It is important to understand the need for relationships and be open to making some changes.

Tips for Creating New Relationships

If you are trying to create new relationships, here are some things you can do according to retirement expert Barry LaValley:

  • Accept and extend invitations.
  • Find excuses to get to know other people.
  • Make your first response “Yes” rather than “I am busy.”
  • Join a club or get involved in your community.
  • Volunteer.
  • Take up a new interest such as going back to school, joining a gym, visiting a senior center, etc.
  • Look for organizations in your community such as Meet Up, a meeting place for people who want to engage in a social or recreational activity but don’t want to do it on their own. (Note: there is a Meet Up organization in most major cities in the US)

We are not here to tell you how to retire; we also understand that “you are who you are.” If it were not in your personality to engage with others, would you be open to trying? If you don’t see the value, can we convince you that this is as close to a “must” as we can suggest without telling you what to do?

Joseph F. Falbo, CFP®, AIF®, CRC® is an independent LPL financial advisor that helps grow and preserve clients’ wealth using cutting edge, customized, and comprehensive strategies. With over two decades of experience, Joe helps clients to pursue and retain the lifestyle they want in retirement. To discuss your retirement goals or any financial topic you want, schedule a 20-minute complimentary call. To learn more about Joe, please visit falbowealth.com.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

This material was prepared for Joseph F. Falbo

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