In her TedX Talk, Susan Pinker, a developmental psychologist, explains how social interactions could be the key to longevity.
"The power of such face-to-face contact is really why there are the lowest rates of dementia among people who are socially engaged," Susan says.
"It's why women who have breast cancer are four times more likely to survive their disease than loners are. Why men who've had a stroke who meet regularly to play poker or to have coffee or to play old-timer's hockey are better protected by that social contact than they are by medication."
Susan's curiosity about the secret to living a long life peaked after learning of a small Italian town in the Mediterranean, Sardinia, where there are 10 times as many centenarians as there are in North America.
Researching the habits of these people, Susan says 25 per cent of it comes down to genes and 75 per cent is determined by their lifestyle.
Additionally, each person she interviewed was surrounded by family and friends who cared for them full-time.
“As people age, and indeed across their lifespans, they're always surrounded by extended family, by friends, by neighbours, the priest, the barkeeper, the grocer. People are always there or dropping by. They are never left to live solitary lives. This is unlike the rest of the developed world.”
A researcher at Brigham Young University, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, made similar observations, Susan explains.
After looking as lifestyle aspects of thousands of people, Julianne found the top two predictors of a long life were close relationships and social integration.
"First, your close relationships," explains Susan. "These are the people that you can call on for a loan if you need money suddenly, who will call the doctor if you're not feeling well or who will take you to the hospital, or who will sit with you if you're having an existential crisis if you're in despair."
As for social integration, the psychologist says, "This means how much you interact with people as you move through your day. How many people do you talk to? And these mean both your weak and your strong bonds, so not just the people you're really close to, who mean a lot to you, but, like, do you talk to the guy who every day makes you your coffee? Do you talk to the postman? Do you talk to the woman who walks by your house every day with her dog? Do you play bridge or poker, have a book club?
"Those interactions are one of the strongest predictors of how long you'll live."
Watch the full Ted Talk below.