Recent research suggests that social relationships have a profound impact on longevity. Investigators analyzed nearly 150 human trials and concluded that isolation and loneliness are as dangerous as well-established risk factors such as smoking, physical inactivity and obesity.
Now a study in mice reinforces this finding. Scientists at Ohio State University housed male mice by themselves or with a female mouse companion for two weeks before surgically inducing a heart attack. The researchers then tracked heart function carefully for one week. The mice with partners had significantly less heart damage and better heart rate variability than the mice that were living alone.
Social interaction also improved other biomarkers such as less inflammation in the brain and lower levels of the stress hormone corticosterone. These findings reinforce the idea that social interaction affects the brain and the body and can have a profound impact on organs like the heart.
[Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, online, Aug. 30, 2010]