Study shows that the more you hang out with your mom, the longer she'll live
Of all the relationships we experience throughout our lifetimes, nothing will ever come close to the bond we have with our mothers. They're not always perfect, of course, and no two people on Earth will share quite the same parent-child dynamic, but they're special, and we ought to cherish them as much as we can.
Unfortunately, as many of us grow up, we tend to neglect our dear ol' mums a little bit.
It's just one of the natural hazards of getting older: we become more independent, and realise that we don't need our parents as much as we used to. We stop relying on them, start talking to them less often, and - in the worst cases - drift apart from them altogether.
As it turns out, though, this could have much greater consequences for our mothers than we previously thought. In fact, spending time with our older relatives could result in a difference in how long they live.
A 2012 study conducted by the University of California found that companionship plays a key role in influencing the age at which people pass away.
The investigation, titled 'Loneliness in Older Persons: A Predictor of Functional Decline and Death' followed more than 1,600 adults with an average age of 71 and found that individuals who felt lonely died sooner than their more socially-engaged peers. Even when other factors such as socioeconomic status and health were accounted for, lonely older people died at a much higher rate.
Over the six years the study took place, nearly 23 per cent of "lonely" older people passed away, compared to only 14 per cent of people who were happy with the level of companionship they had.
"In older persons, health outcomes, such as worsening disability and death, are influenced not just by biomedical factors but also by psychosocial distress," the study reports. "Loneliness is an important contributor to human suffering, especially in elderly persons, among whom prevalence rates may be higher."
While this may be sad to hear, it's also a pretty obvious hint for the rest of us to pull our weight when it comes to staying in contact with our mothers and other close family members, especially if we suspect that they may be feeling particularly lonely.
What's more, remaining in close contact with older relatives can actually be as beneficial for us younger folks as it can be for our parents and grandparents. Rosemary Blieszner, a professor of human development at Virginia Tech, explained that older people are "pretty tolerant of friends’ imperfections and idiosyncrasies, more than young adults."
She continued: "You bring a lot more experience to your friendships when you’re older. You know what’s worth fighting about and not worth fighting about."
So, if you know you've been putting off giving your grandmother a call recently, or haven't yet found the time to visit your elderly father around the holidays, here's your hint to reach out and see how they're doing. You never know, it could literally save their life.