Social Support From Friends and Family Linked To Lower Mortality Interview with:
Katie Becofsky Ph.D.
Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center
The Miriam Hospital
Providence, RI

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Becofsky: Previous research has provided clear evidence of a relationship between social relations (e.g., frequency of social participation, perceived social support) and mortality risk.  We investigated two specific aspects of social relations- source of social support and size of weekly social network- in more detail.  The purpose of our study was to examine the associations between different sources of social support (relative, friend, and partner support), as well as size (and source) of weekly social network, on mortality risk in a large cohort of patients from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study. We found that perceived support from one’s spouse/partner and relatives, as well as weekly social interaction with a network of 6-7 friends, was associated with lower long-term mortality risk.  When the sources were reversed, the effects did not stand- perceived social support from friends did not affect mortality risk, nor did the quantity of weekly familial contacts.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Becofsky: Just as an active lifestyle and healthy diet lower mortality risk, so too does receiving support from loved ones and staying socially engaged.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Becofsky: Just as we design interventions to promote healthy eating and smoking cessation, it may be worthwhile to design health interventions that teach interpersonal communication skills.  For individuals who are unmarried, widowed, or not close with relatives, pet ownership may be an alternative to human social support, and should be explored in intervention trials.  Larger scale strategies may include efforts to de-stigmatize and promote family and marriage counseling, as well as efforts to encourage physicians to discuss the importance of social relations with patients.


Influence of the Source of Social Support and Size of Social Network on All-Cause Mortality

Becofsky, Katie M. et al.
Mayo Clinic Proceedings Published Online: June 05, 2015

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Katie Becofsky Ph.D., Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center, The Miriam Hospital, & Providence, RI (2015). Social Support From Friends and Family Linked To Lower Mortality

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