Researchers at the University of Queensland have published a study in the online medical journal BMJ which concludes that being a member of clubs and social groups - such as a bridge club - after retirement reduces your risk of premature death.
The study looked at the activities of over 400 English retirees. Retirees who, after retirement, reduced the number of groups with which they were involved saw a significant increase in their risk of death in the first 6 years of retirement - from 2% if they were in two groups, rising to 12% if they left both groups. The rate for those who joined an additional two groups fell to 0.4%. The figures for an equivalent reduction in physical exercise were very similar, showing that group membership is as important as physical exercise in reducing the risk of premature death in retirees.
This highlights the importance of socialisation to older people, and helps to reinforce the position that bridge offers a great deal to those in later life. Bridge not only offers cognitive stimulation, but provides social interaction that is key to the health and happniess of retirees. The researchers noted that for every group that participants lost in the year following retirement, their experienced quality of life 6 years later was approximately 10% lower.
The researchers' conclusions include a recommendation that future retirees should be given help with social planning, alongside the more common financial advice. Similarly it shows that those providing care for the elderly need to look beyond 'health' and 'physical fitness'. “In this regard, practical interventions should focus on helping retirees to maintain their sense of purpose and belonging by assisting them to connect to groups and communities that are meaningful to them,” the researchers recommend.
So the message is clear - if you are a member of a bridge club, don't leave; and if you're not, join one!
English Bridge Education and Development will be undertaking research in a similar area, starting in the coming months. This will look at the possible neurological benefits of bridge as well as the social benefits. The project will be funded in part by the EBED Spring & Autumn Sim Pairs. We hope you will take part in those events to support EBED's work in this area.