Hanging out with younger, healthier people might help the elderly to live longer, suggests a study of fruit flies.
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The research also supports the notion that old people are more likely to thrive if with a younger peer group, or with their children and grandchildren, than if they are with their aged peers in a home.
Scientists have already gathered a range of evidence that having a social network is healthier than leading a solitary life: the healthy effects of attending church could be as significant as those enjoyed by people who give up smoking, according to one study of 4,000 elderly people in North Carolina.
Another study at the University of Chicago found that loneliness is a major risk factor in increasing blood pressure and could raise the risk of death from stroke and heart disease.
However, the underlying reason why being sociable has health effects have not been well understood. Now, fruit flies are set to provide the answer, after the discovery that fast-ageing flies that socialise with normal flies live longer than if they live with their peers.