Relationships & Love

Family More Important than Friends in Later Years: Study

For older adults, having more or closer family members in one’s social network decreases his or her likelihood of death within a given period, but having a larger or closer group  of friends does not, according to a new study presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

“We found that older individuals who had more family in their network, as well as older people who were closer with their family were less likely to die [in a five-year period],” said James Iveniuk, the lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Toronto ’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

The study used nationally representative data from the 2005/2006 and 2010/2011 survey of the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project to see which aspects of social networks are most important  for postponing mortality.

Iveniuk and co-author L. Philip Schumm, a senior biostatistician at the  University of Chicago, found that older adults who reported feeling “extremely close” on average to the non-spousal family members they listed as among their closest confidants had about a 6 percent risk of mortality in the next five years, compared to an approximately 14 percent of mortality among those who reported feeling “not very close” to the family members they listed.

Furthermore, the study found that respondents who listed more non-spousal family members in their network, irrespective of closeness, had lower odds of death compared to those who listed fewer family members.

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