Frequent social activities beneficial for older people

(Xinhua) 13:32, March 14, 2023

BEIJING, March 14 (Xinhua) — Chinese researchers have discovered that frequent engagement in social activities is strongly associated with prolonged overall lifespan in older people.

The issue of population aging poses a growing concern around the world. It is estimated that China will become a deeply aging society in 2027 with over 15 percent of the population aged 65 years and above, and will progress into a severely aging society by 2040 with 20 percent of the population aged over 65 years old.

Considerable attention has been given to the concept of “active” or “successful” aging, with an active social life emerging as an important component.

But most of the evidence for the health benefits of socialising is derived from studies conducted on people in Western countries, with little published data on people in Asia.

To plug this knowledge gap, the researchers wanted to explore whether the frequency of socialising might be linked to overall survival in a relatively large group of older people living in China.

Researchers from the West China Hospital of Sichuan University drew on the data from the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey (CLHLS), which is an ongoing nationally representative study of older people who live independently.

The current study focused on five separate waves of data (waves 2002, 2005, 2008, 2011, and 2014), involving a total of 28,563 participants with a median age of 89 years, and these participants were followed up until wave 2018.

The researchers divided the elderly into five groups based on how often they participated in social activities: almost every day, at least once a week, at least once a month, occasionally and never.

After adjusting the confounding factors, such as sex, education, marital status, household income, and lifestyles, the results demonstrated that from the baseline to five years of follow-up, more frequent social activities were associated with a significantly longer lifespan. The greater the frequency, the greater the likelihood of living longer.

The researchers also found that the time to death was delayed by 42 percent in those who socialised occasionally, by 48 percent in those who did at least monthly, by 110 percent in those who did so at least weekly, and by 87 percent in those who did so nearly every day, compared with those who said they never socialised.

When analyzing the relationship between frequent socialising and the long-term survival (i.e. more than five years) of the elderly, the researchers discovered that only participating in social activities almost every day could significantly prolong one’s long-term lifespan. The time to death for this group of people was delayed by 204 percent.

Through the study, the researchers reckon that active participation in social activities is associated with longer overall survival of Chinese older people, especially that almost daily participation in social activities is more beneficial to long-term survival.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)

Frequent social activities beneficial for older people
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