Social relationships make us less likely to die prematurely. According to a 2010 review of research, the effect of social ties on life span is twice as strong as that of exercising, and equivalent to that of quitting smoking.
In the review, researchers examined 148 previous studies on social links and mortality, which together included more than 300,000 participants. These studies found that measures of the strength of people’s social relationships, from their number of friends to their integration into the community, were all linked to decreased mortality.
Researchers are convinced that friendships and health are linked through the body’s processing of stress. The chronic stress that can come with isolation can switch on our bodies fight or flight processes for long periods of time, causing physical wear and tear on the body.
Luckily for Ruth Chatman Hammett, Gladys Ware Butler and Bernice Grimes Underwood their friendships have given them health and wellbeing well into their senior years. They all grew up together but never thought their friendship or their lives would be so long.
“I never thought I would get to this age,” Butler told The Washington Post. The trio congregated at their local church to celebrate their friendship and their incredible longevity, surrounded by numerous generations of family and friends. A fourth friend, who was also born in the summer of 1916 like the trio, sadly passed before reaching her 100th birthday. The others kept a portrait of her on the bench to make sure she didn’t miss out on the celebration.
The three centenarians have a sense of humor and thoroughly enjoyed a video in which they shared their secrets for longevity. Underwood still loves to dance and lives by the golden rule. Respect is something the younger generations should learn, advised Beckett.
Above all, the trio of birthday girls say these 100 years wouldn’t have been possible without their lifelong faith. Oprah Winfrey sent the trio a recorded message, who simply said of the friendship, “Hallelujah.”