Is getting help from others the key to a long life?
No. Giving help to others is.
We figured that if a Terman participant sincerely felt that he or she had friends and relatives to count on when having a hard time then that person would be healthier. Those who felt very loved and cared for, we predicted, would live the longest. Surprise: our prediction was wrong. Although other studies have shown that people who feel loved and cared for will report a better sense of well-being— they feel better— we did not find that it helped much for living a long life.
What about focusing on the size of social networks rather than emphasizing only feelings? Does having regular contact with a large number of close, comfortable friends make a difference? A clear finding was that those who had a large social network lived longer. Just as we had seen in our studies of religiosity, social networks matter a lot.
Beyond social network size, the clearest benefit of social relationships came from helping others. Those who helped their friends and neighbors, advising and caring for others, tended to live to old age.
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