This study aims at assessing the effects of social relationships on the survival, functional ability and mental health of the elderly, through a review of the published evidence in international papers and the results of the population longitudinal study Aging in Leganés.
The results show that social networks and psychological mechanisms built during the life course play an important role in achieving healthy aging. Most specifically, a beneficial effect has been observed for: a) integration in the activities of the community where the person lives, b) the availability of a confidant, c) having frequent contact with family and d) keeping up an active role in family life and friendships. All our recommendations imply maintaining the old person in his/her community. We face a major challengein Spain: the need to achieve social-economic progress that lets us catch up with the most developed countries, without losing the healthy aspects of our Mediterranean culture in regard to social relationships.