Being social makes you healthier, according to research on the importance of social networks.

While previous studies have revealed that older adults with strong social ties live longer, the latest findings suggest that social bonds can protect against disease in people of all ages.

The extent of the social networks were more important for people at a young and old age — the bigger the better. For those in their middle years, it was the quality rather than the quantity of social networks that mattered.

The study — published recently in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences — is the first to definitively link social relationships with concrete health measures, such as obesity, inflammation and high blood pressure.

In seniors, social isolation is more of a threat than diabetes in the development and control of high blood pressure, the study authors said. In adolescents, having a solid social network seems to protect against abdominal obesity and inflammation, the study said.

"Based on these findings, it should be as important to encourage adolescents and young adults to build broad social relationships and social skills for interacting with others as it is to eat healthy and be physically active," Kathleen Mullan Harris, one of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers, said in a news release.

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