- The secret of living to 100 and beyond
- The effect of your social life on longevity
- View the full TED Talk here:
- What impact this research can have on how we choose to age
- How living in an aged care community can help
- Related content: Why Seasons?
- A psychologist says that the secret to living longer may be your social life
- 1) Disrespect
- 2) Dominating the relationship
- 3) Breaking her boundaries
- 4) Not listening to what she has to say
- 5) Not supporting her ambitions
- 6) You can’t express yourself
- 7) You lie, even if it’s over something small
- Page 3
- 1) Independence
- 2) Trusting Nature
- 3) Courage
- 4) A Sense of Humor
- 6) Respect What She Does
- 7) Challenge Her
- In conclusion
- Want to Know the Secret to a Longer, Happier Life? : The Komae Blog : Village Vibes
- Susan Pinker: why face-to-face contact matters in our digital age
- The Secret to Living Longer May Be Your Social Life by Susan Pinker (Transcript) – The Singju Post
- Strengthen relationships for longer, healthier life
- What makes social connections healthful
- What counts
- Strengthening ties
- Friends and family may help Italians live healthier and longer
- The 'why' still unanswered
- The doctor will prescribe you … a book club
The secret of living to 100 and beyond
The Italian island of Sardinia is home to more than six times as many centenarians as the Italian mainland and ten times as many as North America. It also has just as many male centenarians as female – another anomaly when compared to the developed world, where women live on average six to eight years older than men.
Sardinia is named as one of the ‘Blue Zones’ of the world – alongside Okinawa in Japan, Loma Linda in California, Costa Rica’s isolated Nicoya Peninsula and the Greek Island of Ikaria – where people live longer and healthier than anywhere else.
Psychologist Susan Pinker decided to research the secrets of Sardinia’s centenarian population and she discovered that the secret to their long lives had nothing to do with thinking positively or eating a certain diet, but had everything to do with the relationships they had with other people.
The effect of your social life on longevity
In her TED Talk ‘The Secret to living longer may be your social life’, Ms Pinker says her research revealed that housing density and the resultant strong social ties residents had with each other could be the main contributor to their longevity.
“In Villagrande, a village at the epicentre of the blue zone, architectural beauty is not its main virtue, density is. Tightly spaced houses, interwoven alleys and streets means the villagers lives constantly intersect,” says Ms Pinker.
As an ancient village, Villagrande was designed with invasion as a real threat, but in modern towns and cities we face a more insidious threat – isolation.
“Now social isolation is the public health risk of our time. A third of the population say they have two or fewer people to lean on.”
And it’s not just this network of close friends and family that can have an effect on our health, but our general social engagement. In fact, social integration – how much you interact with people throughout the day – emerged through Ms Pinker’s research as the top predictor for a long, healthy life, followed by close relationships with family and friends.
“I quickly discovered that as people in the blue zone age, and indeed through their lifespan, that they’re constantly surrounded by people. They’re always surrounded by extended family, by friends, by neighbours, the priest, the barkeeper, the grocer. People are always there or dropping by. They are never left to live solitary lives.”
View the full TED Talk here:
This correlation between social engagement and longevity ties in with research by Dr Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Professor of Psychology at Brigham Young University, Utah, that uncovered the real impact of loneliness on health as we age. Her study revealed that lonely people had a 50 per cent increased risk of early death, compared with people who have good social connections.
What impact this research can have on how we choose to age
Here in Australia, many of our elderly report feeling lonely, with Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt raising concerns last year that up to 40 per cent of aged care residents receive no visitors.
While the preference for Australian elderly is to age in their own home and communities, our family structures and lifestyles mean that often our elders are not as surrounded by family, friends and a strong community as those living in Villagrande. This can have an adverse effect on their health and wellbeing over time. It also means that opting to stay alone in their own home may not always be the best option.
How living in an aged care community can help
What we can take from this research is that we need foster our social connections at every age and stage of our lives. As we age and we lose close family and loved ones, this could include choosing to move to a retirement village or an aged care community which focuses on social activities, lifestyle and community.
There is evidence here in Australia that those opting for community living are requiring aged services at an older age than those in the general community, with the average age of people going from a retirement village into aged care being 84 years – five years later than the general population at 79 years.
This suggests that the community fostered in these villages has a positive impact on health. We have also seen health improvements in some of our Seasons residents who moved to our communities after living alone.
The extra benefit for Seasons residents is that they continue living as part of a lively community right up to the end. They receive personalised care within the community in a way that increases their quality of life and removes the need to move into residential aged care.
Related content: Why Seasons?
A psychologist says that the secret to living longer may be your social life
What’s the secret to longevity?
It’s not an easy question to answer. Some people say it’s diet. Other people say it’s keeping stress to a minimum.
But according to longevity expert, Susan Pinker, it’s none of these things.
After studying an area in an Italian island in the Mediterranean known for the occupants longevity, she found that there’s one particular factor to living long that we largely ignore.
So, what is it?
In the brilliant TED talk below, Susan Pinker says that in the developed world, women live an average of 6 to 8 years longer than men. That’s a huge gap.
But there’s one place in the world that bucks this trend. It’s a mountainous zone in Sardinia, an Italian island in the Mediterranean, between Corsica and Tunisia.
There are 6 times as many centenarians as on the Italian mainland, less than 200 miles away.
There are 10 times as many centenarians as there are in North America. It’s the only place where men live as long as women.
She discovered that genes account for just 25 percent of their longevity. The other 75 percent is lifestyle.
So what in their lifestyle are they doing right? Well, according to Pinker, they all live in tightly spaced houses, interwoven alleys and streets.
It means the villagers’ lives constantly intersect. most ancient villages, Villagrande couldn’t have survived without this structure, because defense and social cohesion defined its design.
So, what did the data show in regards to their longevity?
Pinker found that the number one predictor of living a long life is close relationships. That is, having people you can call upon when you need help and having people you can talk to when you’re going through an existential crisis.
The second most important factor?
According to Pinker, its social integration. This means how much you interact with people as you go about your day. How many people you actually talk to.
Why? Because face-to-face interaction releases a whole cascade of neurotransmitters, and they protect you now in the present and well into the future.
Simply making eye contact with somebody, shaking hands, giving somebody a high-five is enough to release oxytocin, which increases your level of trust and it lowers your cortisol levels, which lowers your stress. And dopamine is generated, which gives us a little high and it kills pain.
All of this passes under our conscious radar, which is why many of us conflate online activity with the real thing. But Pinker says that now we have real evidence that there is a difference.
To dig deeper into this fascinating research, watch the brilliant TED from Susan Pinker below where she lays it all bear:
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Ah the strong woman. She turns heads wherever she walks and doesn’t take sh*t from no one.
You’ve met her, I’ve met and we all know how powerful of a character she can be.
She’s more than happy to fly solo but if you are going to date her, then you need to be aware: Lie or be selfish and she’ll cut you off immediately.
She knows what she deserves and she won’t settle for less.
Here are 7 things a strong woman simply won’t tolerate:
A strong woman values respect above anything else. She sees the value in everyone and always listens to what people have to say. She knows that everyone has something valuable to offer.
So, when you disrespect someone else’s opinion, let alone her own, she simply won’t have it. It’s a sure fire sign that you’re a complete jerk.
In fact, whenever a strong woman goes on first dates, she pays close attention to how the man treats the waiter. If he’s kind and respectful, she might just see him again. If not, she’s gone to the “toilet” and she won’t come back.
2) Dominating the relationship
Equality is a value that she doesn’t take lightly. It’s cornerstone to her philosophy on life and how she treats other people.
If you expect her to whim at your every demand, you need to get the hell out.
She has goals she wants to achieve in a relationship.
A strong woman isn’t going to clean all your dishes and make all your food unless you do the same for her. She knows her worth and guess what? Your worth isn’t more than hers.
3) Breaking her boundaries
She’s strongly independent and doesn’t break to manipulation and lies.
If she says “no”, you’d better believe it. Because if you keep trying to get what you want, you’re simply hindering her independence and freedom which is a gauranteed trigger to put an end to the relationship.
Woman have been repressed in the relationship for too long and she’s taking the power back. Don’t cross her boundaries.
4) Not listening to what she has to say
A strong woman is confident in her own intelligence and she knows she has valuable words of wisdom to share.
But if you’re “too smart” to listen, she won’t have it and you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
She’s always learning and listening as much as she can. So if you can’t do the same, you simply don’t deserve to be her in presence.
She’d rather be a “power couple” than powerless.
5) Not supporting her ambitions
A strong woman has dreams and goals that she wants to achieve. It’s what keeps her motivated throughout the day.
But if you’re constantly putting her down and not believing in her ability to achieve, you’re just a toxic “boy” to her.
She wants someone who will grow and believe in the future just as much as she does. It’s the only way the relationship will thrive.
6) You can’t express yourself
Sure, anybody can love a strong woman. But if you’re not expressing that love through words and actions, then you need to take a good hard look at yourself.
A strong woman might have her own life on lock, but doesn’t mean she doesn’t want compliments and kind actions thrown towards her.
She loves gentleman and people that are just plain generous. If you’re going to be constipated in your expression, then you need to move on and find someone else.
7) You lie, even if it’s over something small
Honesty is a core foundation of a strong woman’s life. She thrives on it. She speaks her emotions, she acts on her values and she won’t hesitate to give you her real opinion.
But if you’re not going to abide, she’ll sniff your shit from a mile away and you won’t hear from her again.
If you’ve been out with the boys for a few exta drinks, tell her. There’s nothing more attractive to a strong woman than a man who can just tell it how it is.
But if you haven’t got the nuts to speak your truth and act on your values, then move away. She hasn’t got time for boys.
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Women who have strong personalities or dominating personalities are often seen as a negative thing.
Why is it that society thinks women who stand up for themselves and their beliefs are negative?
Strong women are the exact opposite of negative. Strong women move pieces to complete puzzles, fill gaps, and move the world forward.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a short list of some very strong women that changed the way the world works:
Anne Frank Susan B. Anthony Mother Teresa Princess Diana Michelle Obama
Strong women are everywhere and are doing amazing things. Strong women also have a softer side that they need to attend to as well.
When it comes to being in a relationship with a strong woman, men need to be prepared to handle what is coming their way.
Here are 7 things a strong woman needs in a partner.
If you are going to date or be in a relationship with a strong woman, you better get it into your head that you are two separate people and you always will be.
It doesn’t matter if you share a house in Malibu and cuddle on the couch on Sunday nights watching the latest series premieres; strong women need their independence. It’s part of their identity.
2) Trusting Nature
Strong women make strong choices. Someone who is going to be with a strong woman needs to be able to trust that she knows what she is doing and she can deliver the goods when she says she will.
A strong woman needs a partner who has the courage to take on the world with her. Because it’s this: she’s taking on the world whether you get on board or not, so it’s best to just get on board and pony up with some courage.
4) A Sense of Humor
Life is great, but life sucks a lot too, and a strong woman can shake it off and get on with life as fast as it happened to her.
If you want to be with a strong woman, you need to have a sense of humor about life and the curveballs it can throw you.
Choices and essential decisions should be considered on both people’s behalf. Strong women will never force something on you, and she’ll expect the same equal treatment from you.
6) Respect What She Does
When you are in a relationship with a strong woman, you need to respect that she is going to live life the way she wants.
If you don’t respect her enough to let her life her own life, then she is going to have a problem with you. Strong women are incredibly insightful and sometimes her choices might not always make sense to you, but if you respect her, and trust her, the two of you will never have a problem.
7) Challenge Her
A strong woman doesn’t want a man to follow her around and beg at her heels. She wants a man who will stand up to her and challenge her when he believes she is wrong.
She wants to be with a partner who can call her on her bullshit, and make her see the error of her ways if it comes to that.
A strong woman can do amazing things if they are supported and given the room to grow in a relationship. If a strong woman is feeling stifled or stuck in life because of a relationship, you better believe she is going to hit the road.
After all, her life is about her, and if you want her life to be about you, you need to check the boxes. You don’t have to be her love slave or do everything she says; you just need to understand the dynamic of what she needs and be open to being that person.
But really, how hard is it to give someone their independence, be trusting, and offer women respect. Strong women are seen as scary and power hungry, but they are just people. Don’t be afraid to step up to a strong woman and tell her you are ready to be what she needs.
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Want to Know the Secret to a Longer, Happier Life? : The Komae Blog : Village Vibes
Living in an age where we can message or FaceTime our friends from the comfort of our own home (and without having to wrangle any resistant toddlers into the car) definitely has its advantages. But it also means it’s very tempting to go out less and stay home more.
I mean, when you look at the cold, hard facts, why would any of us go through the torture of getting our kids dressed and out the door if we don’t have to?!
But did you know some psychologists and scientists have actually proven that face-to-face contact helps us feel happier, be more resilient and even live longer?
In a TED talk by Susan Pinker called, “The secret to living longer may be your social life,” she shares how face-to-face contact releases neurotransmitters such as oxytocin and dopamine that increase our feeling of well-being. Pinker is a psychologist and also the author of The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier and Happier.
Assuming Pinker (and grandmothers around the world) are right and that in-person interaction is just plain good for us, how can we squeeze in some much needed social time into our already packed days? Here are a few ideas:
Block-off a repeating time on your calendar to get together with friends for a Saturday morning coffee, a quick lunch during the week, or dinner with another family one night a month. Often, finding an open time on two or more calendars is half the battle, so protecting this time on everyone’s schedules will greatly increase the lihood you’ll get to meet up.
Use the time spent waiting for kids at after-school activities to connect with the other parents who are also waiting. Pinker shares in her TED talk that even trivial conversations with casual acquaintances are good for your soul.
So get your car and off your phone! It may seem awkward at first to talk with strangers, but they’ll soon become your friends if you make a little effort. Remember that face-to-face interaction benefits everyone.
You may actually begin looking forward to soccer practice!
Join a community group such as MOPS “Mothers of Preschoolers”, a book club, a service group at church, or a sports club that’s already set up and just waiting for you.
It’ll give you a built-in way to connect with people about things you have in common ( parenting) or things you love doing ( talking about books, serving others or running). Don’t just join a group because you feel obligated, or it’s the first group you come across.
The more this group fulfills a variety of your emotional, intellectual and physical needs, the more ly you’ll commit to attending and the more you’ll get it.
Now, get off your phone and find someone to connect with face to face and heart to heart. It’s ly more fun than exercise and may be even better for you!
About the Author
Elizabeth Billups is the content manager at MOPS International, a non-profit organization that builds groups of moms around the world who love each other family (mops.org). Elizabeth is also the author and illustrator of The Puddle Jumper’s Guide to Kicking Cancer and other books. With three kids of her own, she’s got a heart for supporting moms and families.
At MOPS we believe that remarkable things happen when moms come together, face to face and heart to heart. That’s why we rally women to come together in their own neighborhoods, one gathering at a time.
Our acronym stands for “Mothers of Preschoolers” because we began in 1973 when a group of moms of young children banded together to share their lives and parenting journeys.
Over the past 45 years, we’ve expanded our reach to include moms with older kids, partnering with churches and organizations worldwide to equip and encourage moms in more than 60 countries. Learn more at mops.org.
Susan Pinker: why face-to-face contact matters in our digital age
Last month the Church of England asserted that a big slice of British society feels “unwanted, unvalued and unnoticed”, a view confirmed by recent population surveys. A third of British citizens over 65 now say that they have no one to turn to, and a significant swath of those under 25 say they also feel disconnected from the people around them. Has loneliness become the new normal?
As you start humming the chorus to “Eleanor Rigby”, realise this: feeling untethered is not only uncomfortable, it is bad for your health.
Research shows that people who feel socially disconnected are at a greater risk of dying young – especially if they are men.
Women are more prone to seek out and build longstanding, intimate personal relationships: within their extended families, through lifelong friendships, in their neighbourhoods.
That is one reason – there are others, of course – why in every industrialised country, women outlive men by an average of five to seven years. This gender imbalance is visible wherever older people spend their time; in parks, libraries, churches, community halls and seniors’ tour groups, women over the age of 60 outnumber men in their age group by three to one.
But this is not the case everywhere. There is one place in Europe where both sexes are living long lives. It is an area where, for better or worse, no one is left alone for very long. In what has been dubbed the Age of Loneliness, it’s worth asking what they have that we don’t.
The residents of the hilltop villages of central Sardinia are among the world’s only exceptions to the rule that women in developed nations live longer than men. Almost everywhere else, including on the Italian mainland 120 miles away, there are six female centenarians for every male. Elsewhere, most men don’t make it to 80.
But once Sardinian men in this region have survived their dangerous, risk-taking adolescent and young adult years, they often live as long as their wives and sisters – well into their 90s and beyond; 10 times as many men in these villages live past the age of 100 as men who live elsewhere.
Despite living hardscrabble lives as shepherds, farmers and labourers in an inhospitable environment, Sardinians who were born and live in these villages are outlasting their fellow citizens in Europe and North America by as many as two to three decades.
Many of these centenarians remain active, working well into their 90s and living in their own homes, usually with the help of people they’ve known their entire lives.
These villages comprise one of the world’s “Blue Zones” – a handful of mountainous regions where more people live to the age of 100 than anywhere else. This zone has nearly the same landmass as Switzerland but with less than a quarter of its population; just 1.
5 million people live in the towns dotting the rugged shoreline and pastoral mountain villages in the Ogliastra region, the epicentre of the Sardinian Blue Zone.
Centuries of invaders and regular attacks from North African pirates drove residents away from the coast inland, beyond the rugged Gennargentu mountains. This geographic isolation bonded the area’s families and communities. That is the upside.
The downside is that always having to defend your boundaries created a longstanding mistrust of strangers, aptly illustrated by the local saying Furat chie benit dae su mare: those who come from the sea come to steal.
Multiple conditions foster extraordinary longevity in Sardinia. Photograph: EyeOn/UIG via Getty Images
That hostility to outsiders is one reason why I flew into Alghero – a Moorish-looking seaside town with an airport and a university – instead of heading straight to the Blue Zone. I was travelling with my daughter Eva, to record the life stories of these centenarians for a radio documentary.
Our first step was to meet an expert in Sardinian super-longevity, a local physician and biomedical researcher named Giovanni Pes, accompanied by a geneticist colleague, Paolo Francalacci, who told us that genes account for perhaps 25% of the variance that leads to male super-longevity in the region; culture and chance accounted for the rest.
Pes immediately included us in his lively circle of close friends, family and colleagues, and this sense of inclusion turned out to be a crucial piece of the longevity puzzle.
Every centenarian we met was supported by kith and kin, visitors who stopped by to chat, bring food and gossip, provide personal care, a kiss on the cheek.
Time-pressured grown-up children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews – some of them senior citizens themselves – took time off from work to look after their elderly family members.
Despite a packed clinical and research schedule, Pes told me it was normal to spend every Sunday with his mother. “Of course we have to balance our careers with family life,” he told me.
“But as a Sardinian, I never forget to visit my mother. She lives 70km from me, but every week I visit her. She is 87 now but is fantastic mentally.
I talk to her about my work at the university and she always gives me interesting advice.”
Given that his father lived to 105 and his great-uncle to 110 and that the biology of ageing has inspired his research career, Pes is well versed in the multiple conditions that foster extraordinary longevity in Sardinia: the isolated gene pool, the mountainous terrain, the local diet and red wine.
But he also emphasises the buffering effect of social factors – the impact of face-to-face interaction which is so central to Sardinian village life. “Everybody is in close contact with other members of the community. My great-uncle was no exception. He used to visit friends and relatives and was fond of going hunting until he was 98 years old.
And if I remember correctly, he was able to shoot a wild boar at that age.”
Caring for fragile relatives seems motivated by more than duty. Obligation is mixed with pride, a sense of ownership and identity. The contrast to how families behave elsewhere is stark.
In other parts of Europe and in North America, looking after ageing family members can be seen as grunt work.
Yet when I asked Maria Corrias, a woman in her 60s who lived with, and cared for, her nearly deaf, housebound, irascible, 102-year-old uncle if she felt frustrated by her situation, she became annoyed with me. “No, no! I do it with pleasure. You don’t understand.
He is my heritage. The seniors of this village are our heritage. We do it with love.” I asked her 25-year-old niece, Sarah, if she would do the same for her elderly relatives when the time comes. “Certo, of course I will,” she replied. “Everybody does it.”
Our survival hinges on social interaction, and that is not only true of the murky evolutionary past. Over the last decade huge population studies have shown that social integration — the feeling of being part of a cohesive group — fosters immunity and resilience.
How accepted and supported we feel affects the biological pathways that skew the genetic expression of a disease, while feeling isolated “leaves a loneliness imprint” on every cell, says the American social neuroscientist John Cacioppo.
Women with breast cancer who have expansive, active, face-to-face social networks, for example, are four times as ly to survive their illness as women with sparser social connections.
How might that work? Research led by Steve Cole at the University of California, Los Angeles shows that social contact switches on and off genes that regulate the rate of tumour growth (and the level of cancer-killing lymphocytes in our bloodstreams).
Fifty-year-old men with active friendships are less ly to have heart attacks than more solitary men, and people who have had a stroke are better protected from grave complications by an in-person social network than they are by medication.
Working with a large British sample, the Australian researchers Catherine and Alex Haslam have found that people with active social lives recover faster after an illness than those who are solitary – their MRIs show greater tissue repair – and that older people in England who participated in social gatherings kept their memories longer.
And it’s not just about pensioners. When the daily habits of nearly 17,000 utility workers in France were monitored throughout the 1990s, researchers discovered that their degree of social involvement was a good way to predict who would still be alive at the end of the decade.
The studies on the benefits of face-to-face social contact, almost all of them published during the last decade, leave us with the question: why isn’t there more buzz about getting together? One reason is that when it comes to what drives health and happiness, we’re obsessed with more concrete concerns: food, money, exercise, drugs. We recognise that cigarettes, salt, animal fat and being overweight can shorten our lifespan, while antibiotics, physical activity and the right diet can prolong it. This knowledge has changed the way most of us eat, work and spend our leisure time. But despite evidence that confirms the transformative power of social contact, our routines have become more solitary. Since the late 80s, when social isolation was first earmarked as a risk for premature death in a landmark article in Science magazine, the number of people who say they feel isolated has doubled if not trebled, according to population surveys in Europe, the US and Australia.
Britons of all ages now devote more time to digital devices and screens than to any other activity except sleeping. Photograph: Olaf Speier/Alamy
The questions how and why loneliness has increased have been much debated. Communities have disbanded for a variety of reasons.
And while the internet allows us to ignore geography in our search for the -minded, it has further stripped away the need to talk to our neighbours.
Most commercial and social transactions have migrated online, where they’re cheaper and quicker, and for many people, the workplace and the classroom are now virtual, too. If electronic media informs and entertain us, who needs all that forced person-to-person chit-chat?
Certainly digital computation has eclipsed raw brain power when it comes to searching, gathering and sorting information. But when it comes to relationships, our electronic devices can give us the illusion of intimacy without the hormonal rush of the real deal.
In 2012, the University of Wisconsin psychologist Leslie Seltzer and her team asked pre‑teen girls to solve maths and word problems in front of an audience. Before testing them, the researchers measured the participants’ salivary cortisol, a hormone that registers levels of stress.
They were then divided into four groups. Each received a different type of social contact immediately after the test: one quarter of the group had a visit from their mother, one quarter got a phone call from her, one quarter an encouraging text, and one quarter had no communication at all.
After the test, the cortisol levels were measured once again, along with the levels of oxytocin in the blood. The girls who saw their mothers in person became the most relaxed afterwards, as shown by the biggest drop in their cortisol levels.
A spike in oxytocin, often called the “cuddle chemical”, showed they felt reassured. That phenomenon, though attenuated, was shown in girls who heard their mother’s voice on the phone. But a text from their mother had no impact.
There were no physiological signs that the participants felt less anxiety than they had before. Indeed, their hormone levels were indistinguishable from the girls who had no contact at all.
Recent MRI studies led by neuroscientist Elizabeth Redcay tell us that personal contact elicits greater activity in brain areas linked to social problem-solving, attention and reward than a remote connection. When the identical information is transmitted via a recording, something gets lost.
Just as we all require food, water and sleep to survive, we all need genuine human contact. Digital devices are great for sharing information, but not great for deepening human connections and a sense of belonging.
More socially cohesive societies – such as the Blue Zone of Sardinia – suggest that we should use our mobile devices to augment, not to replace, face-to-face interaction – that is, if we want to live longer, healthier and happier lives.
Britons of all ages now devote more time to digital devices and screens than to any other activity except sleeping; a lot of those hours are spent alone. No app exists that is as effective as one year with a highly trained teacher, or the cumulative effect of regular family meals spent together.
A quarter of Britons now say they feel emotionally unconnected to others, and a third do not feel connected to the wider community. If men are to live as long as women, if urbanites hope to live as long as Mediterranean village dwellers, they need to live in a place where they know and talk to their neighbours.
But there is no need to trash your smartphone and move to rural Sardinia. Once you recognise that you need more than pixelated, electronic ties, and more than a handful of close friends and family to keep you healthy and happy, you can stay where you are.
By cultivating a community of diverse, person-to-person relationships, you can build your own village, right where you live.
• Susan Pinker’s The Village Effect: Why Face-to-Face Contact Matters is published by Atlantic.
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The Secret to Living Longer May Be Your Social Life by Susan Pinker (Transcript) – The Singju Post
Here is the full transcript of psychologist Susan Pinker’s TED Talk: The Secret to Living Longer May Be Your Social Life.
Listen to the MP3 Audio: The secret to living longer may be your social life by Susan Pinker
Here’s an intriguing fact. In the developed world, everywhere, women live an average of six to eight years longer than men do. Six to eight years longer. That’s, , a huge gap.
In 2015, the “Lancet” published an article showing that men in rich countries are twice as ly to die as women are at any age. But there is one place in the world where men live as long as women. It’s a remote, mountainous zone, a blue zone, where super longevity is common to both sexes.
This is the blue zone in Sardinia, an Italian island in the Mediterranean, between Corsica and Tunisia, where there are six times as many centenarians as on the Italian mainland, less than 200 miles away. There are 10 times as many centenarians as there are in North America. It’s the only place where men live as long as women. But why? My curiosity was piqued.
I decided to research the science and the habits of the place, and I started with the genetic profile. I discovered soon enough that genes account for just 25% of their longevity. The other 75% is lifestyle.
So what does it take to live to 100 or beyond? What are they doing right? What you’re looking at is an aerial view of Villagrande.
It’s a village at the epicenter of the blue zone where I went to investigate this, and as you can see, architectural beauty is not its main virtue, density is: tightly spaced houses, interwoven alleys and streets. It means that the villagers’ lives constantly intersect.
And as I walked through the village, I could feel hundreds of pairs of eyes watching me from behind doorways and curtains, from behind shutters. Because all ancient villages, Villagrande couldn’t have survived without this structure, without its walls, without its cathedral, without its village square, because defense and social cohesion defined its design.
Urban priorities changed as we moved towards the industrial revolution because infectious disease became the risk of the day. But what about now? Now, social isolation is the public health risk of our time.
Now, a third of the population says they have two or fewer people to lean on. But let’s go to Villagrande now as a contrast to meet some centenarians.
Meet Giuseppe Murinu. He’s 102, a supercentenarian and a lifelong resident of the village of Villagrande. He was a gregarious man. He loved to recount stories such as how he lived a bird from what he could find on the forest floor during not one but two world wars, how he and his wife, who also lived past 100, raised six children in a small, homey kitchen where I interviewed him.
Here he is with his sons Angelo and Domenico, both in their 70s and looking after their father, and who were quite frankly very suspicious of me and my daughter who came along with me on this research trip, because the flip side of social cohesion is a wariness of strangers and outsiders.
But Giuseppe, he wasn’t suspicious at all. He was a happy-go-lucky guy, very outgoing with a positive outlook. And I wondered: so is that what it takes to live to be 100 or beyond, thinking positively? Actually, no.
Meet Giovanni Corrias. He’s 101, the grumpiest person I have ever met. And he put a lie to the notion that you have to be positive to live a long life. And there is evidence for this. When I asked him why he lived so long, he kind of looked at me under hooded eyelids and he growled, “Nobody has to know my secrets.”
But despite being a sourpuss, the niece who lived with him and looked after him called him “Il Tesoro,” “my treasure”. And she respected him and loved him, and she told me, when I questioned this obvious loss of her freedom, “You just don’t understand, do you? Looking after this man is a pleasure. It’s a huge privilege for me. This is my heritage.”
And indeed, wherever I went to interview these centenarians, I found a kitchen party. Here’s Giovanni with his two nieces, Maria above him and beside him his great-niece Sara, who came when I was there to bring fresh fruits and vegetables.
And I quickly discovered by being there that in the blue zone, as people age, and indeed across their lifespans, they’re always surrounded by extended family, by friends, by neighbors, the priest, the barkeeper, the grocer.
People are always there or dropping by. They are never left to live solitary lives. This is un the rest of the developed world, where as George Burns quipped, “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring family in another city.
Now, so far we’ve only met men, long-living men, but I met women too, and here you see Zia Teresa. She, at over 100, taught me how to make the local specialty, which is called culurgiones, which are these large pasta pockets ravioli about this size, this size, and they’re filled with high-fat ricotta and mint and drenched in tomato sauce.
And she showed me how to make just the right crimp so they wouldn’t open, and she makes them with her daughters every Sunday and distributes them by the dozens to neighbors and friends. And that’s when I discovered a low-fat, gluten-free diet is not what it takes to live to 100 in the blue zone.
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Strengthen relationships for longer, healthier life
Each January, most of us make a list of New Year's resolutions — maybe we want to strengthen our bodies, or our resolve to eat better, or the determination to quit smoking. As it turns out, strengthening your social relationships may be an effort worth adding to your list of New Year's resolutions — for the good of your health.
Social connections these not only give us pleasure, they also influence our long-term health in ways every bit as powerful as adequate sleep, a good diet, and not smoking. Dozens of studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends, and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer.
Conversely, a relative lack of social ties is associated with depression and later-life cognitive decline, as well as with increased mortality.
One study, which examined data from more than 309,000 people, found that lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50% — an effect on mortality risk roughly comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and greater than obesity and physical inactivity.
What makes social connections healthful
Scientists are investigating the biological and behavioral factors that account for the health benefits of connecting with others.
For example, they've found that it helps relieve harmful levels of stress, which can adversely affect coronary arteries, gut function, insulin regulation, and the immune system.
Another line of research suggests that caring behaviors trigger the release of stress-reducing hormones.
Research has also identified a range of activities that qualify as social support, from offers of help or advice to expressions of affection. In addition, evidence suggests that the life-enhancing effects of social support extend to giver as well as to receiver.
All of this is encouraging news because caring involvement with others may be one of the easiest health strategies to access. It's inexpensive, it requires no special equipment or regimen, and we can engage in it in many ways.
The quality of our relationships matters.
For example, one study found that midlife women who were in highly satisfying marriages and marital-type relationships had a lower risk for cardiovascular disease compared with those in less satisfying marriages.
Other studies have linked disappointing or negative interactions with family and friends with poorer health. One intriguing line of research has found signs of reduced immunity in couples during especially hostile marital spats.
Having a network of important relationships can also make a difference. A large Swedish study of people ages 75 and over concluded that dementia risk was lowest in those with a variety of satisfying contacts with friends and relatives.
For many of us, the recent holidays meant family gatherings, getting together with friends, and participating in special religious, community, and workplace activities.
Such occasions are an opportunity to check in with each other, exchange ideas, and perhaps lend a supportive ear or shoulder. Now is a good time to strengthen your ties throughout the years to come.
Here are some ways to start:
- Focus on your most meaningful relationships.
- Choose activities to do together that are most ly to bring joy to you and the people you care about.
- Delegate or discard tasks that eat into your time, or do them together with family or friends.
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Friends and family may help Italians live healthier and longer
(CNN)If you think longevity solely comes down to genes and diet, think again.
Our social life — the family ties and the bonds you have with friends and community — might also play a vital role.
Adolfo Melis, who lives on the island of Sardinia, in Italy, is testament to this way of thinking.
He might be 94, but he says he feels 50. Melis is still active — he's one impressive pool player — he doesn't need glasses to read the newspaper, and he gets up early enough to serve coffee from 6 a.m. onwards at his coffee shop. Importantly, “'all my customers are my friends, and everyone knows each other,” Melis said.
So what exactly is behind Melis' fitness at his impressive age?
Dr. Gianni Pes studied the population of this area — one of the world's “Blue Zones,” an area with an extraordinarily long-living population — and thinks people live longer and more healthily here because they do more physical activity outdoors and feel strong connections to each other.
“The community is strong and gives support to old people,” he said. For example, there are no nursing homes in the village of Arzana in Sardinia. “Elderly people stay within the family until the end of their existence,” Pes said.
People who lack social connections have 50% higher odds of dying than others who are more connected, according to a review of 148 studies. Being isolated was also shown to have a greater effect on high blood pressure than having diabetes in old age, according toanother recent study.
“There have been a couple of comparisons that social isolation has a risk of mortality that's about the same as the other major risk factorsthat we think about, so smoking, for instance, is on a par with that,”said Lisa Berkman,professor of public policy, epidemiology and global and population health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
One common social activity in particular is shown to help us stay healthy: enjoying a meal together. Melis himself regularly enjoys eating dinner with friends and family.
People who are socially connected tend to eat together, said Berkman, who is also the director of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. She believes that by doing so, they tend to avoid eating the kind of foods that people under a lot of stress turn to, such as comfort food.
“What we know is that people who have strong social connections tend not to be so obese,” she added.
The most obvious reason for socializing doing us good is that social people have better health behaviors, she said.
People with strong ties tend to eat better, smoke less and be slightly more physically active.
In turn, people with stressful relationships tend to have some unhealthy behaviors, such as eating less healthily and smoking more. “In a number of studies, these behaviors have turned out to be important.”
The evidence on socializing being good for our health doesn't stop there. People are also less susceptible to the common cold if they have good social relationships, according to a randomized trial.
The stress and strain of a lack of connections can generally make “you more susceptible to whatever's out there,” as it can weaken people's immune systems, Berkman said.
When isolated people are exposed to an infectious agent, they are more vulnerable to it, she said. This is why disconnection can make people more susceptible to infectious diseases, the cold or tuberculosis or even the progression of AIDS.
The 'why' still unanswered
Research from as far back as the 1900s shows the danger of lacking social connections. But the exact reasons for this haven't been pinpointed.
“Probably over 40 years, people have been trying to understand why it is social relationships actually can impact health and well-being,” explained Janelle Jones, a lecturer of social psychology at Queen Mary University of London.
Feeling connected with others and having shared experiences allows people to build identity, Jones believes. This lets people access support and gain good feelings from others, and it can be a source of activity. “We know that all of those things together are actually linked to better health outcomes.”
Another possible answer to why socializing is good for our health could be in our brain. People with larger social networks were shown to have a higher pain tolerance in a 2016 trial by Katerina Johnson, a research associate at Oxford University's Department of Experimental Psychology.
Looking at 107 people, the study showed that participants with more friends were able to endure a pain test — squatting against the wall with their legs bent at a 90-degree angle — for longer.
“It might sound a bit strange, but we actually expected to find this result,” Johnson said, “because we think this relationship is related to the activity of a chemical in the brain called endorphin.”
Endorphins are the body's natural painkillers and are stronger than morphine. These chemicals “help to dampen any way that we kind of stress the body,” whether it's physical or social pain, Johnson said. They have a second important role: giving people a nice buzz when around company, making us seek out social connections.
The idea behind well-connected people having a higher pain tolerance is that if they maintain social bonds, their brain adapts to have a higher endorphin activity, she explained.
Another find from Johnson's study was that people who were more stressed tended to have smaller social networks. Socializing can reduce the body's stress response and endorphins alleviate stress, she said.
The key message is that “our social relationships aren't just kind of an add-on part of our life. They actually are really integral to our physical and mental well-being,” Johnson explained.
The doctor will prescribe you … a book club
Some doctors in the UK agree with this sentiment. Family doctors, or GPs, in parts of the UK have started prescribing social activities such as book clubs for patients to meet their medical and non-medical needs.
This method, called social prescribing, tackles people's needs holistically, said Olivia Field, policy and engagement manager on loneliness and social isolation for the British Red Cross.
About 1 in 5 GP visits in England is due to non-medical needs, such as loneliness, problems with unemployment or personal relationships, according to a 2015 survey carried out by the UK charity Citizens Advice.
The way social prescribing works is that GPs will identify when a patient has non-medical needs, such as needing help with finances, mobility or socializing.
These patients will be connected to a social prescribing link worker, a non-medical professional who will get to know the person, get to the root of their problems, co-develop a plan with them their own desires and link them to whatresources they need.
These link workers are important, in particular when it comes to people's emotional needs, because chronically lonely people lose confidence, and when opportunities arise for them to connect with others, that may be a difficult task. Link workers can provide additional support, such as accompanying the person to social activities.
“We know that people are more ly to connect when they are doing something together,” and they have a shared interest or focus area in that moment in time, Field said. If you're eating together, the focus can be partly on the food and partly on each other, making it less intense than just sitting in a room with nothing to draw focus on or distract in between conversation, she said.
“We know that loneliness can be triggered by the onset of a health condition or illness, but equally the experience of loneliness itself can exacerbate that health condition,” Field said.
Social prescribing is “massively effective,” according to Field. Around half of 9,000people helped by British Red Cross link workers said they no longer felt lonely after an average of 12 weeks. The measurement of loneliness was done using a loneliness scale developed by the University of California, Los Angeles, a standard measure recommended by government, Field added.
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