Quality of relationships with family members 'affects mortality risk'

Scientific Developments/Breakthroughs

A new study has demonstrated the significant impact the quality of a person's familial relationships can have on their risk of mortality.

The University of Toronto-led study indicated that for older adults, having more or closer family members in their social network can decrease the likelihood of death in a way that having a larger or closer group of friends does not.

“A new study has indicated that people's relationships with their family members can affect their risk of death in a way that their friendships do not.“

It was shown that people between 57 and 85 who reported feeling extremely close to non-spousal family members listed among their closest confidants had about a six percent risk of mortality within the next five years.

By comparison, an approximate 14 percent risk of mortality was seen among those who reported feeling not very close to the family members they listed, while those who listed more family members in their network - regardless of closeness - had lower odds of death.

The data did not support the idea that similar correlations exist with friendship groups, despite the fact that theoretically it should be possible to more easily customise a friendship network to meet specific needs.

Study leader James Iveniuk, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said: "It is the people who in some sense you cannot choose, and who also have little choice about choosing you, who seem to provide the greatest benefit to longevity."

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