According to a research involving more than 28,000 Chinese adults that was published online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, frequent socialisation may increase older people’s lifetime. According to the research, socialising almost daily appears to be best for a long life.
Globally, there were 962 million persons over 60 in 2017, and by 2050, that figure is expected to quadruple. As a result, the idea of “active” or “successful” ageing has received a lot of attention; the researchers observe that an active social life appears to be one of its key components.
However, there is little published data on people in Asia, and the majority of the evidence for the health advantages of socialising is based on people in Western nations.
To fill up this knowledge gap, the researchers looked at a sizable cohort of older adults living in China to see if socialisation was associated with overall survival.
The Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey (CLHLS), an ongoing, prospective, and nationally representative study of senior citizens living independently, was used as a source of participants.
The current study concentrates on 5 distinct waves of data collecting up to 2018–19, covering a total of 28,563 people with an average age of 89. Data on the frequency of socialising only began to be gathered in 2002.
When asked how frequently they participated in social events, participants responded either practically daily, at least once a week, at least once a month, seldom, or never. Also, data on potentially significant variables such as sex, education, marital status, household income, consumption of fruits and vegetables, way of life, and bad health were gathered.
Until death, a person’s survival was monitored for an average of five years.
Throughout the first five years, 25,406 respondents reported not participating in any social events; 1379 said they did so occasionally; 693 said they did so at least once each month; 553 said they did so at least once per week; and 532 said they did so virtually everyday. 21,161 (74%) participants passed away during the entire monitoring period, 15,728 of them did so within the first five years.
Overall, longer survival was substantially correlated with more frequent social interaction. The probability of surviving longer increases with frequency.
Up to five years after the monitoring period began, standardised death rates were 18.4 per 100 people for those who never socialised, 8.8 for those who did so occasionally, 8.3 for those who did it at least monthly, 7.5 for those who did it at least once a week, and 7.3 for those who did it almost daily.
Comparing individuals who stated they never socialised to those who occasionally socialised, those who did so experienced a 42% delay in time to death, 48% delay in time to death, 110% delay in time to death, and 87% delay in time to death, respectively.
Among the survivors after 5 years were 8420 persons who claimed they never socialised, 688 who occasionally did so, 350 who did so at least monthly, 295 who did so at least weekly, and 272 who did so practically every day.
The average death rate for those who never socialised was 6.2 per 100 people tracked for a year; it was 4.8 for those who did it sometimes; 5 for those who did it at least once a month; 5.4 for those who did it at least once a week; and 3.6 for those who did it almost daily.
There was a threshold effect, with only socialising almost daily being related with noticeably prolonged survival in this group, where time to death was postponed by 204%.
Male sex, younger age, a greater level of education, marriage, residing in a town/city and/or with family, and actual or self-rated good health were all connected with being more socially active.
Social activity appeared to be even more strongly associated with extended survival within the first five years for the oldest old when the data were further stratified by age, the researchers note. This finding suggests that strategies to promote the maintenance of an active social life in very old people should be encouraged.
Since this is an observational study, causality cannot be determined. The researchers also admit that they were unable to account for potential changes in health or social behaviours over time.
Furthermore unclear is the precise mechanism through which ageing socialisation could increase survival. Enhancing healthy behaviours, such as increasing physical activity and eating better, is one of the suggested causes. According to the experts, socialising may also lessen the effects of long-term pressures.
“In our study, the association between social activity frequency and overall survival attenuated after adjusting for sociodemographic factors, socioeconomic status, healthy behaviours, and several morbidities, but it still remained statistically significant, which indicated that social activity participation per se was an independent predictor for overall survival in older people,” they write in their conclusion.