Who knew that hanging out with friends could help you live longer?
Friday night, I was downstairs watching the end of a hideous Timberwolves game and just beginning to think about turning in when I got a call from my friend M.E. He was heading over to a local watering hole with an old b-ball buddy, J.D., and wondered if I wanted to join them for a beverage.
Ordinarily, I would’ve demurred. It was late and I’m just not that sociable. But, for some reason, I pulled on a pair of shoes, grabbed my jacket and drove over to meet them. I settled into a booth alongside M.E. and spent the next hour or so in full conviviality mode: yakking away about sports and politics and who knows what else. When we parted ways, we vowed to get together again soon.
The next morning, I rose and climbed on my bike to meet a couple of other friends for breakfast at a popular diner across the river, where we spent a couple of pleasant hours chatting about everything from the history of local radio to the reconstruction of stained-glass windows.
This is all very much out of character for yours truly. My idea of a great Friday night is a nice dinner at home followed by a good book in my favorite chair, preferably with a cat curled up on my lap. It’s a sort of reclusiveness that seems to me to be fairly benign. I’m not agorophobic or anything. I do get out into society on a fairly regular basis. I’m just not very proactive when it comes to cultivating and nurturing my friendships.
And this could be a problem, according to a recent piece by Jane Brody in the New York Times. She points to research suggesting that people who have strong connections to others generally live longer than curmudgeonly hermits like myself. In one study she mentions, people lacking social ties were three times more likely to die during a nine-year period than those who spent time with family and friends. Another study, which surveyed 2,300 heart attack survivors, found that those with good social connections had a far lower risk of death than their more reclusive counterparts.
Brody, whose husband of 44 years died in 2010, admittedly faces more daunting challenges in this area than I do. My Lovely Wife is a constant source of conviviality in my life and a model “socialist” in her own right. And I have plenty of opportunities to engage with my various circles of friends. I just need to step it up a bit.
So, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a couple of calls to make.