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Friday, August 13, 2010

Social Relationships & Mortality Risk

If you are like me when someone asks you what comes to mind when you think about risk factors for early mortality you probably think about factors such as smoking, diet, inactivity, obesity, or possibly one's genes. 

A colleague of mine recently introduced me to a great study that sheds light on another factor that was found to be a comparable or an even greater risk factor for mortality than the risk factors we typically think of:  Social Relationships.  The importance of social connectedness and social relationships cannot be understated with PD and with carers of people with PD.   Isolation due to depression, apathy, anxiety, or just due to having PD is a common problem for people with PD and their carers. 

It is well known that social connectedness provides a psychological buffer to chronic stress, depression and anxiety.  This meta-analytic study illustrates how social connectedness and social relationships also provide a health buffer to early mortality.    A take away quote from the Conclusion section of the article is telling:

"Data across 308,849 individuals, followed for an average of 7.5 years, indicate that individuals with adequate social relationships have a 50% greater likelihood of survival compared to those with poor or insufficient relationships.  The magnitude of this effect is comparable with quitting smoking and it exceeds many well-known risk factors for mortality (e.g., obesity, physical inactivity)."

As Social Workers we are the professionals that have the time, skills, and expertise to assist patients and families in becoming and staying more socially connected.

To read the entire article or download the PDF:


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