Your Roommates Could Help You Live Longer

Studies find health benefits in living with others, except for those over the age of 80.

Even if you have bad roommates—loud, obnoxious, anal-retentive, etc.—there’s a good chance they’ll help you live longer.

A recent study of 44,617 people from 29 countries found that living alone was independently associated with an increase of death due to cardiovascular problems, such as stroke or heart attack. The findings of the study were released by the American Heart Association earlier this month.

The study isolated risk factors for cardiovascular problems, like obesity, smoking, gender, and age. The average age of the study participant was 69.

The most interesting part of the study is where things take a turn—after 80 years old, subjects living by themselves faired better than those living with others.

Of course, most people with roommates at the age of 80 tend to be in nursing homes, so it may be the case that those living independently tend to be happier and live longer than those in the nursing homes. Not that I’m saying there aren’t some nice old folks homes out there.

Researchers have speculated on why the roommate situation can help people live longer—one idea is that a roomate  is simple someone who can be there there to notice smaller medical events that could be signs of trouble. It could be as small a thing as one roommate telling another to see a doctor after experiencing some chest pain, whereas a person living along may dismiss it and not get the necessary attention.

Then again, those of us living with others at an age long before cardiovascular events are likely can thank our roommates for helping step in when our unhealthy habits want to get out of control.

A study released earlier this year from the Finish Institute of Occupational Health in Helsinki, Denmark, found that people who live alone are at a higher risk of dying from alcohol-related causes, including diseases and accidents.

This makes sense when comparing those results to a 30-year-old study that found that people who live alone don’t have as much social contact, thus fewer points where friends and others can help regulate unwanted behavior through “social constraint, obligation, and responsibility.”

In essence, when your housemates tell you to tone down the drinking or drug use, it’ll help you live longer, even if you might not like it at the time.

Humans have always been pack animals. We hunted together, we gathered together, and we lived together because we found there was strength in numbers.

Even though the only things we have to gather these days comes from Ikea, that doesn’t mean that we haven’t lost our primal connection to be with others, no matter how introverted we really are. That contact will keep us healthy, whether we realize it or not. 

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