Good news for social butterflies: a recent study indicates that the more socializing you do, the longer and healthier you’ll live.
While diet, exercise, and genetics play a role in everyone’s life longevity, an examination of citizens living within Sardinia’s Blue Zone, the area where people tend to exceed age 100, showed that a socially active lifestyle may be one of the main factors contributing to why Sardinians live so long.
Defining the Blue Zone
Created in the 2000s by Dr. Giovanni Pres, the physician and demographer marked on a map the sections of Sardinia where a fascinating number of centenarians lived. The map was notated with blue markers, hence the blue zone, and became a benchmark term for sections of the world where people live the longest. Other blue zone areas include Nicoya, Costa Rica and Ikaria, Greece.
What the Study Found
After careful analysis, researchers concluded that genetics come into play in only 20 to 25 percent of cases. That means that other factors are influencing this trend. The health of the Sardinians is admirable. Many of the elderly read without glasses and lead the same kind of lifestyle they engaged in during their youth. Very few are on medications, they’re incredibly lucid, and there are very low levels of the depression symptoms that tend to crop up for people in their senior years. Also interesting is that men live as long as women in Sardinia, whereas in the rest of the world very old people are predominantly women, at a 1-to-4 ratio.
Why Things Are Different in the Blue Zone
80-year-old Ermelinda Mereu gardens and lives off the land with her 90-year-old husband. She says she never worried about getting older, because he knows her children will be there for her, like she was for her parents.
Made up of old villages, this region has a strong history and tradition with family. The bonds between relatives are strong, so much so that they see one another regularly. Few elderly Sardinians are treated for in an institution, rather they move into a family member’s home, or are cared for by family and neighbors who regularly drop by. The attitude about old people in Sardinia is not that of a burden, but of a source of wisdom, a place to go to for advice. Old people are a resource. As a family unit, the seniors are very much revered, and that respect provides feelings of importance which, elsewhere, many old people lose as they age.
Most Sardinians are very involved in their day to day activities, regardless of age. They have lunch with friends, play cards, and engage in festivals and sporting events. This activity keeps their mind sharp, their bodies moving, and gives a sense of purpose and involvement that is excellent for the aging mind. The study concluded that the social activities that blue zone Sardinians participate in are likely the main reason they live a happy, active life till age 100 and beyond.