The key ingredient to a long and healthy life has always been right in front of us. In a 2010 research study on life longevity conducted by the University of Brigham Young, it is found that social integration is the most necessary characteristic of living a long life, with close relationships as the runner up. Both social integration and close relationships surpass the long repeated sentiments of exercise, healthy eating, or clean air. Not to diminish the importance of such fundamentals, rather, longevity requires more than just the basics; it requires us to expand beyond our bubble and integrate into the world around us.
Social integration is how much we interact with people as we go about our daily life. From a simple smile to a stranger, to a spontaneous conversation with an acquaintance. Each interaction, big or small, has an impact on our individual lives. Integration enhances our ability to understand one another and encourages empathy within societies. Just ask the centenarians (people who have been alive for 100 years or more) who live in the Blue Zones (where people live the longest and are healthiest) of the world, the most common trait amongst all centenarians is their ability to cultivate strong social networks outside of maintaining their relationships with family and friends.
Social interactions create a sense of warmth and belonging embedded with the strength needed to take on internal and external life challenges. Our senses are necessary for basic social interactions, they have utility outside the notions of basic survival. A sense of frustration overcomes us when our senses fail because they are essential for social integration.
The ability to hear is a part of how we communicate and psychologically connect with one another. And as a result, when sound depletes, disconnection with others can get to a point of feeling like isolation. If the key to longevity is social integration then ensuring the wellbeing and utility of our ears is for both our physical health and mental health