Social Groups May Lengthen Retirees' Lives
Interpersonal activities are similar to exercise in extending life, researchers say
By Steven Reinberg
TUESDAY, Feb. 16, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Staying socially active by joining book clubs or church groups may add years to your life after retirement, a new study suggests.
The more groups a person belongs to in early retirement, the lower their risk of premature death, Australian researchers found. The chance of dying within six years of stopping work was 2 percent for people who were members of two social groups before retiring and stayed in both. If they left one group, their risk of death increased to 5 percent, and it rose to 12 percent if they left both groups.
"The sense of belonging that social group connections provide helps people sustain a meaningful and healthy life," said lead researcher Niklas Steffens, a lecturer at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.
Social planning may be as important as financial and medical planning to health and well-being in retirement, he said.
"If you don't belong to any group, join one," Steffens said. "If you belong to only one or two groups, you might want to think about how to make the most of these and what other groups you may want to join. Remember that maintaining an active group life is as important as other things, such as regular exercise."
The report was published online Feb. 15 in the journal BMJ Open.
However, this study, while valuable, doesn't prove cause and effect, according to Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center in New Haven, Conn.
"It may be that individuals prone to ill health, physical or mental, were less social as a result," said Katz, who is also president of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine.
"Still, the study reminds us of the importance of meaningful human interactions to our well-being. That social interaction appears comparable to physical activity is not a reason to substitute one for the other, but to do both," Katz said.
Over six years, Steffens and colleagues collected data on 424 retirees. The study compared the retirees with similar people who were still working. All participants were at least 50 years old and part of an ongoing study of aging in England.