Having close friendships may be just as important for your health as quitting smoking, losing weight or taking certain medications, find US researchers.
Researchers from Young University in Utah found that people with strong relationships with friends and family were 50 percent less likely to die young than those who didn't have good social relationships, the US' MSNBC reported.
Psychologist Julianne Holt-Lunstad and her team analysed 148 studies of more than 300,000 people which examined social relationships and the effects on health, published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Medicine.
Having little social interaction is the equivalent of being an alcoholic, more harmful than not exercising and was twice as harmful as being obese, the researchers found.
"A lack of social relationships was equivalent to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day," Holt-Lunstad told MSNBC.
Social relationships were also found to be more important for a long lifespan than getting an adult vaccine to prevent pneumonia or taking drugs for high blood pressure.
Holt-Lunstad said that the study highlights the need for governments to introduce policies which encourage social interaction in order to keep the population healthy.
"Such findings suggest that despite increases in technology and globalization that would presumably foster social connections, people are becoming increasingly more socially isolated," Holt-Lunstad said.