Rewarding Social Connections Promote Successful Aging

Sunday, 16 February 2014
Grand Ballroom A (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
John T. Cacioppo , University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Using a nationally representative sample of 2,101 adults aged 50 years and over from the 2002 to 2008 waves of the Health and Retirement Study, we estimate the effect of loneliness (i.e., the absence of rewarding social relationships) at one point on mortality over the subsequent six years, and investigate social relationships, health behaviors, and health outcomes as potential mechanisms through which loneliness affects mortality risk.  Loneliness was associated with increased mortality risk over a 6-year period, and that this effect is not explained by objective social relationships or health behaviors.  We also find that loneliness contributes to pathophysiological processes, including fragmented sleep and alterations in gene expression. These studies contribute to a growing literature indicating that rewarding social relationships is a protective factor for morbidity and mortality and point to potential mechanisms through which this process works.