Question: I’ve heard that people who are more social live longer. Why is that?
Answer: Yes, many studies suggest that staying socially connected predicts greater life expectancy. Being social reduces stress and is helpful in getting care and support from others.
A growing number of Americans are living to age 100. Nationwide, the centenarian population has grown 65.8 percent over the past three decades, from 32,194 people who were age 100 or older in 1980 to 53,364 centenarians in 2010, according to new Census Bureau data. In contrast, the total population has increased 36.3 percent over the same time period.
Centenarians in the United States are considerably different from the overall population. Here’s a look at some of the characteristics of people who live to age 100:
It is overwhelmingly women who live to age 100. In 2010, 82.8 percent of centenarians were female. For every 100 females age 100 or older, there are only 20.7 males the same age. Females also make up 61.9 percent of those in their 80s and 72.2 percent of people in their 90s. “We know that women are more social than men. Other studies have found that staying socially connected predicts greater life expectancy,” says Gary Small, a professor on aging and director of the UCLA Longevity Center in Los Angeles, who is not affiliated with the Census Bureau report. “If you are social, it may reduce stress levels because you can talk about your feelings and things that stress you out and it seems to help many people. If you need a ride to the doctor or you fall, they can take you to the hospital or help you find the best doctor.”
Centenarians are considerably less diverse than the overall U.S. population. In 2010, some 82.5 percent of centenarians were white, versus 72.4 percent of the total population. Black or African Americans were unique in that their proportion of the centenarian population (12.2 percent) is about the same as their percentage of the total population (12.6 percent). Asians made up 2.5 percent of the centenarian population, while they make up 4.8 percent of the total population. And Hispanics represent 5.8 percent of centenarians, but 16.3 percent of the population. Read more