What is the key to longevity? How could an older person best ensure that they continue converting oxygen into carbon dioxide? “The results will surprise you,” the researchers always say in such situations — but this time they are right.
Overweight? Underweight? Turns out, not a big deal. Exercise? Important, sure, but not a significant factor. Quit boozing and smoking? Number four and three, respectively; that, of course, is no surprise at all. Number two, though, might be — close relationships. Having someone there to take care of you when you are sick, loan you money when you are desperate, give you a ride to the airport — this is three times better a predictor than weight.
The top predictor of longevity is the big surprise, though. It’s termed “social integration.” It’s the way you interact with people on a casual level. Do you talk to the checker at the supermarket? Do you engage with your cabdriver? Do you chit-chat with your waitperson? A high level of social integration, says this study, is the strongest predictor of longevity.
I have remarked in days past how (a) East Hill is chatty enough to strain the patience of the most longsuffering building-locker-upper; and (b) we can always do better. But while we are considering longevity, let me put a word in for our seniors. No one likes chatting more than they do, but they are not in as advantageous a mixing and milling position as their juniors. Going a bit out of your way to “rise up before the gray-headed and honor the aged” (Leviticus 19:32) will put a smile on their face, guaranteed.
It might even allow you to live long enough to become a senior yourself. It’s worth a shot, anyway.