Online activity could help you live longer

Silver surfer? More of them are more likely in the future

Silver surfer? More of them are more likely in the future

Annie Turnbull is 111 years old and is the oldest living person in Britain; congratulations to her – and to her “secret” of success (a daily glass of sherry). When the Internet first came to life she was in her 90s. Would she have made it to her grand old age if the web had been around when she was a teenager? Many people worry that today’s youngsters are so wrapped up in technology they could be harming their lives. But new research suggests it might be good for you to use the web a bit more. Indeed, it may even prolong your life.

Researchers have done a “meta analysis” of all the studies which have looked at the link between social isolation and early death. For years there have been studies which have suggested that lonely people tend to die younger than those with a rich social life. This new analysis confirms that this is indeed the case; the richer and more diverse a social life you have, the longer you will live.

So, with more people living considerable parts of their lives online – and teenagers grunting at each other using Facebook pokes, rather than in person – are we getting increasingly isolated and thereby potentially reducing our lifespans? Is the fact that we are all sitting in front of computers, connecting remotely rather than face-to-face, making us live fewer years than might be possible?

Relax. You are OK. Indeed, the very fact that you are reading this suggests you are potentially the kind of person who is using web technology to help lengthen their lifespan. Far from the online world reducing our lives, research suggests we engage in social networking activities which actually help promote the kind of behaviour that makes us likely to live longer. It appears we use online social networks to create more varied social connections, deeper social connections and more frequent social connections. They are all the kind of things which the latest research on lifespans and social isolation suggests as being positive and beneficial.

Indeed, a couple of years ago I wrote about a study which pointed to the possibility that social networkers live longer. Now, this latest study confirms the earlier suggestions – the extra social activity you undertake online is all helping you improve your chances of being a long-time Silver Surfer. If anyone tells you that social networking is a waste of time, just tell them you are trying to beat Annie Turnbull at her own game…!

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