By Katherine Olivetti


Try answering this multiple choice question…

What are the top 2 factors that predict longevity:
a. getting exercise
b. eating a healthy diet
c. quitting smoking
d. having 3 close friendships
e. being financially secure
f. greeting people you only know casually
g. being treated for hypertension
h. getting a flu shot

You might be as surprised as I was. Can you believe that the top two factors are d and f? Really? More than quitting smoking!

Susan Pinker, a psychologist, author, and social science columnist for The Wall Street Journal reveals interesting and unexpected information about longevity in her Ted Talk “The Secret to Living Longer May Be Your Social Life.
She looked for a place where men and women all live longer. She found her answer on the island of Sardinia off the coast of Italy.


Pinker gives away the punch line in her title, but the story of her research is interesting. It turns out that when she really dug into the research she found that two aspects of social life are the biggest factors that predict longevity:

• Having close relationships, 3 being the magic number, such as close enough that you could borrow money if you needed it, or ask them to help take care of you if you were sick. These are your folks, the ones you could really lean on.

• Having good social integration—which means interfacing with a number of people during the course of the day. This could be the green grocer, the person who walks a dog by your house every morning, interacting with the members of your book club or poker game, or even the barista who brews your latte.



This research is important for all of us. We need to look at our social world, maybe even map it like this:

circle of influence

Put yourself in the middle. Then in the next circle, put those closest to you—the ones you can completely rely on. Then in each ring add others according to how close you are to them until in the end you have people who cross your path that you don’t know that much about.

On the day you leave your job, you also leave behind a social structure and network that unknowingly contributes to your well being and longevity. Planning the way you will bridge this gap can prepare you and avert the negative impact this loss can have on you—impact such as depression and isolation.

The implications, particularly for contacts of social integration are significant when it comes to the topic of retirement. One day a whole social network goes away. The doorman who greets you as you walk into the company. The elevator operator who knows what floor you work on. The executive assistant who smiles when they see you come in the door. The colleagues on your team.

One of the key factors my colleagues and I have integrated into our LIFE REINSPIRED program is developing a peer group to help those in the orb of retirement bridge that crucial gap. Take a look at your social environment, and if you think we can help you, reach out to us. We’d love to hear from you!


Katherine Olivetti is Co-Founder of Life Reinspired, a reset lab for successful Baby Boomers contemplating a meaningful next chapter of life. She is a practicing Jungian psychoanalyst, family therapist, coach, writer, and editor, training professionals throughout the world.