Date Published: August 31, 2010
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Abstract: The PLoS Medicine editors argue for the need to fundamentally rethink how societies can look beyond the “medical” causes of disease in an effort to promote health and well-being.
Partial Text: Evidence from observational studies has documented the association between social relationships and beneficial effects on health outcomes, such as mortality . However, the precise size of this effect, and of which aspects that form part of social relationships are most strongly linked with positive outcomes, remain unclear. Now, a systematic review and meta-analysis of the literature  sheds further light on these questions. The systematic review, published in PLoS Medicine in July 2010, retrieved data from a large body of literature—148 studies involving 308,849 participants. The researchers examined studies carried out in both community populations and patient samples, and examined only the “hardest” endpoint—mortality (excluding studies in which only suicide or injury-related mortality was reported). The researchers reported that stronger social relationships were associated with a 50% increased chance of survival over the course of the studies, on average. The effect was similar for both “functional” (e.g., the receipt or perception of receipt of support within a social relationship) and “structural” measures of relationships (e.g., being married, living alone, size of social networks).