Washington: Healthy social relationships and connections have found to be beneficial and a booster for adults, irrespective of the number of friends and how large their circle is. The findings were published in the journal Psychology and Aging. “Stereotypes of aging tend to paint older adults in many cultures as sad and lonely. But the research shows that older adults’ smaller networks didn’t undermine social satisfaction and well-being. In fact, older adults tend to report better well-being than younger adults,” said lead author Wandi Bruine de Bruin, PhD, of the University of Leeds.
Researchers analysed data from two online surveys conducted by RAND Corp.’s American Life Panel, a nationally representative survey of adults recruited through a variety of approaches (e.g., random digital dialing and address-based sampling).
Study participants assessed the number of people from different social networks (e.g., friends, family, neighbours) and peripheral others (e.g., co-workers, school or childhood relations, people who provide a service) with whom they had “regular contact in the past six months.” Contact included face-to-face, by phone or email or on the internet. Participants also rated feelings of well-being over the prior 30 days.
Researchers found older adults had smaller social networks than younger adults, but the number of close friends was unrelated to age. Younger adults had large social networks consisting of mostly peripheral others, perhaps because online social media networking sites have facilitated the maintenance of increasingly large and impersonal social networks, according to the authors.
Only the reported number of close friends was associated with social satisfaction and well-being across the adult life span. The relationship between the number of close friends and well-being held, even after accounting for the number of family members, neighbours and peripheral others, which was not additionally associated with well-being.