The Power of Social Interaction for Longevity

According to a renowned longevity expert, having friends is just as vital for a longer lifespan as maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise routine.

Friendships are crucial for living longer, just as important as diet and exercise, says a longevity expert.

Elderly women walking and laughing in a park

Do you want to live longer? Well, according to Professor Rose Anne Kenny, having good relationships and social interactions might be just as important as exercise and diet! In fact, she believes that denying ourselves social interaction is as “toxic” as not eating or drinking. So, let’s dive into the marvelous world of socializing and discover how it can boost our longevity.

It’s More Than Just Exercise and Diet

Professor Rose Anne Kenny, an expert in old age and the chair of medical gerontology at Trinity College Dublin, has devoted her research to understanding how social interaction impacts our health. She found that humans have evolved to need social interaction just like we need food and water. Can you imagine denying yourself a slice of pizza or a refreshing glass of water? Well, denying yourself social interaction is equally harmful. So grab a friend and socialize to your heart’s content!

The Science behind It

The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), led by Professor Kenny, has provided fascinating insights into the power of social interaction. The study, which has surveyed over 8,500 people in Ireland over the age of 50 since 2006, found that social participation, friendship, and social relationships are just as vital for longevity as exercise, diet, and not smoking. Loneliness, on the other hand, triggers chronic inflammation, which can lead to several health issues like cancer, heart disease, strokes, and dementia. So, if you want to avoid these “big diseases” and stay healthier for longer, it’s time to prioritize your social life.

Friendship: The Anti-Inflammatory Remedy

Inflammation is a natural process that occurs when our bodies respond to injury, infection, or stress. However, chronic inflammation, which results from prolonged loneliness or stress, can lead to poor health outcomes. Studies have shown that socially isolated individuals have higher levels of inflammatory chemicals in their tissues, increasing their risk of various health problems, including heart attacks. So, if you’re feeling lonely, it’s time to call up your friends and surround yourself with laughter, joy, and a friendly dose of anti-inflammatory goodness.

Choose Friends Wisely

While it’s important to have social interaction, the quality of those interactions matters too. Professor Kenny advises against prioritizing relationships that don’t bring you happiness. If a friendship or family engagement is strained or unpleasant, it can trigger stress, which is no good for your health. So, focus on building relationships that nourish your soul and uplift your spirits.

Volunteering: A Loneliness Buster

Looking to make new friends or increase your social interactions? Professor Kenny suggests making your hobbies social. Instead of doing yoga alone at home, join a yoga class. Unleash your vocal capabilities and join a choir. Engaging in activities with others not only helps combat loneliness but also adds an exciting dynamic to your hobbies.

Additionally, volunteering regularly has been associated with a better quality of life, improved physical health, and reduced depression. Don’t worry if you’re not initially happy or fulfilled because volunteering independently influences your health. So, lend a helping hand, make a difference, and reap the benefits of a vibrant social life.


Next time you’re deciding between hitting the gym or grabbing a coffee with a friend, remember that social interaction is just as important for your longevity. Socializing, building friendships, and surrounding yourself with positive relationships can reduce inflammation, relieve stress, and contribute to better overall health. So, put on your socializing hat, pick up the phone, and embark on a journey of social connection and laughter. Your future self will thank you!

*[TILDA]: The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing