|This is the kind of social circle I'm used to.|
In 2010, Holt-Lunstad, Smith and Layton conducted a meta-analysis of 148 studies, totaling 308,849 participants, to find the association between social relationships on mortality. The results show that on average, strong social relationships confer a 50% increased risk of livelihood, with the strongest association being with complex social integrations (OR = 1.91, or 91%) and the weakest being binary indicators of residential status (OR = 1.19, or 19%). In general, therefore, strong social relationships have a similar influence on mortality as do other established risk-factors for mortality.
Now, I don't know about the rest of you, but concerning situations that involve risk of mortality, I think the effect sizes of having strong social relationships to any degree are enough to start promoting sociability. Not that having a very close circle of a few friends isn't good for the psychological reasons I mentioned, but in terms of longevity, it just doesn't cut it.
Why do I say this? A study by Cable et al. in 2012 observed 3,169 men and 3,512 women born in Great Britain in 1958 and followed them through their life. They found that at age 45, having a smaller network of friends resulted in poorer psychological well-being by age 50. This same study also suggests that men psychologically benefited from larger kinship connections. Maybe there is something to the "mama's boy." I say that in jest, but these results are significant, as they suggest that the network size was an even better predictor of their psychological well-being at age 50 than their previous psychological state or their socio-demographic factors. These results did not differ significantly between men and women.
A similar study conducted by the Centre for Ageing Studies at Flinders University in Australia followed 1,477 people at the age of 70 and found that having a larger network of friends was associated with a 22% increase in longevity compared to those who did not have a large network. At the same time, close relationships with children/relatives did not seem to significantly increase longevity.
So what does this suggest? Get out there and be social!
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Holt-Lunstad, Smith, & Layton (2010). Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLoS Med DOI: 10.4016/19911.01
Cable et al. (2012). Friends are equally important to men and women, but family matters more for men's well-being. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health DOI: 10.1136/jech-2012-201113
Giles et al. (2004). Effect of social networks on 10 year survival in very old Australians: the Australian longitudinal study of aging. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health DOI: 10.1136/jech.2004.025429