Almost 20 years ago, Italian physician and demographer, Dr. Giovanni Pes, noticed that Sardinia – an island off the coast of Italy – had lower mortality rates that other regions in Italy’s mainland. And in the research to follow, scientists have identified that a strong social life may be one important reason why these Italians have higher life expectancies. Let’s discover the key to longevity.
When Pes began identified Sardinian villages with low mortality rates, he labeled them as “blue zones”. This is now the term used to refer to six other regions throughout the world, where centenarians thrive, including Greece, Costa Rica, Japan and California.
In identifying the key to longevity, Pes initially believed that it had to do with genetics. However, good genes only accounted for about “25 percent of the average lifespan.” Instead, interviews with the locals revealed that a strong social life had a fundamental role to play in a long life.
Whereas in other parts of Italy – and the rest of the world – where elderly people are often confined to institutional care, in Sardinia, these old folks retain an important place in their families and communities.
They remain with their families, who love and take care of them. What’s more, they are valued for their wisdom, knowledge and insight. And instead of being a burden, many men and women continue to do their daily tasks despite their increasing age.
According to a psychologist at a Sardinian university, Maria Chiara Fastame, “If you are involved with many activities, physical or cultural, it means that your mind is more efficient,” suggesting that an active social life keeps your mind sharp.
This information can encourage us to strengthen and cultivate a healthy social life, not only for our health now, but for years to come, too.