In Chapter 12, social networks and social life are discussed, with some conflicting results. The authors found that it wasn’t the feeling of being loved and cared for that increased longevity, but rather, the size of a person’s social network. This struck me as a little odd, because I have always believed that having several close, trustworthy friends is more important than having a wide network of friendly acquaintances. I’m guessing that their finding was more related to the fact that people with wider networks tended to be more involved in various activities, which does help increase longevity. Additionally, they found that helping others and being a caretaker for people tended to increase longevity too. I just thought that this was a generally pleasant finding, because it’s nice to know that investing time in others is good for more than just the soul.
In the end, I don’t entirely believe their claim that “social networks represent an important–perhaps the most important–way to change one’s life pathway.” It’s difficult to quantify how social networks directly impact a person’s physiological health, and there’s no guarantee that a social network will improve mental health either. For example, if you’re involved in a hate group that functions as your social network, does that have the same benefits as being involved in other groups? Maybe I’m being biased, but I’d imagine that the quality of those social networks matters more than their size.