Social Relationships & Mortality Risk: 2010 Meta-Analysis Review

For a long time now, the quality and quantity of social relationships have been linked with mental health, physical health and mortality.

Somewhat surprisingly, however, a recent meta-analysis by Holt-Lunstad et al. found that the influence of social relationships on risk of mortality is actually comparable with other more established risk factors of mortality, such as smoking.

The meta-analysis included 148 articles. Odds Ratios (OR) of greater than 1.00 were associated with decreased mortality for individuals with relatively higher level of social interactions, whereas, ORs less than 1.00 were associated with increased mortality. Data were reported from 308,849 participants.

An average of 29% of study participants were reported as having died during each of the study’s follow-up periods. Across all 148 studies, the average effect size indicated a 50% increased likelihood of survival as a function of stronger social relations.


The evidence from the independent studies indicates that individuals’ experiences within social relationships significantly predict mortality.

The results remained constant across many factors including age, sex, initial health status, length of follow-up period, and cause of death, suggesting that the strength of association between social relationships and mortality is consistent regardless of other factors.



Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., & Layton, J. B. (2010). Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PLoS Med, 7(7), e1000316.