Want a longer, healthier life? Well, the best medicine is the support of family and friends.
That's the conclusion of a new U.S. study, which found that the secret to a long, healthy life is having a strong social network.
Researchers at Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that people with adequate social relationships - friends, family and community involvement were 50 percent less likely to die during study periods than those with sparse social support. It's an effect comparable to that of quitting smoking.
And, turning it around, people with little social support have a mortality risk equal to alcoholism and even higher than either obesity or physical inactivity, the study found.
The analysis compiled data from 148 studies. More than 300,000 people were in the data pool, followed for an average of 7.5 years.
The link between social support and mortality risk was found for men and women of all ages, regardless of initial health condition, years of a study or cause of death.
In concrete terms, that 50 percent number means that socially connected people would live an average of 3.7 years longer than less-connected people, said study co-author Timothy B. Smith, a psychology professor at Brigham Young.
However, Dr Antonio Gomez, assistant clinical professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said doctors should take note of the study, but that it has its limitations.
"We can't make the broad, sweeping claim that social relationships cause increased survivability - at least, not yet," The LA Times quoted him as saying.