Could being social save your life? New research finds that men who were more socially connected were half as likely to commit suicide as men who were lone wolves.
Researchers from Harvard's School of Public Health looked at data on nearly 35,000 men ages 40-75 who had answered questions about their marital status, interactions with friends, religious participation and other social groups and found that those who were more isolated were at risk, even if they were not mentally ill.
"Public Health practitioners think about things like cardiovascular disease as warranting public health attention," says Dr. Alexander Tsai, one of the study's authors and staff psychiatrist in the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry. "We think less about suicide as warranting public health attention."
In the United States, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death, with heart disease at the top of the list. Dr. Elizabeth Bromley, assistant professor in residence at UCLA's Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, says the findings are one more argument in favor of being social: "Spending time with friends and being with others has been proven to support health broadly, both physical and mental, and there is an increasing awareness of that."
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