Wow, just wow.
I just finished reading a new paper published in PLOS Medicine (Lunstad et al 2010), on the association between social support and health.
The take home message: social support can increase your odds of living longer by 50%. Thats frankly, amazing. As the authors themselves note, this is a larger increase in life comparable to that gained by quitting smoking (something that i really need to do).
They examined 180 studies involving large samples (mostly community based). They had four coders assessing quality of the studies (which is pretty impressive, one rarely sees more than two), and they estimated that there would need to be over 4000 studies to reduce their results to a clinically insignificant level.
Normally, I would start talking here about some of the flaws I saw in the study. However, from my perspective, there are none. Its a wonderful study, and you all should read it (especially since access is totally free).
The question that we need to ask now, is how are these effects mediated? Is it talking to friends, the idea that people care about you, or what? I foresee a huge interest in this paper, from sociologists, anthropologists, psychologists, doctors and everyone who is the least bit interested in health.
If you're still here, go call a friend - it might save your life.
Julianne Holt-Lunstad,, Timothy B. Smith,, & J. Bradley Layton (2010). Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review PLoS Medicine : doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316