coworkersWe working adults spend a large portion of our waking hours on the job, often skipping breaks or eating at our desks in order to get more done, then rushing off at day’s end to deal with responsibilities at home. But our health could benefit hugely if we took time to schmooze over coffee or share a midday meal with colleagues, a recently published study suggests.

Back in 1988, 820 healthy adults ages 25 to 65 from various professions completed a questionnaire about their relationships with their supervisors and coworkers. By 2008 (20 years later), 53 of the participants had died. Analysis: After controlling for health risk factors such as smoking, obesity and depression, researchers determined that participants who had reported having low social support at work were 2.4 times more likely to have died within the study period than those who had reported having supportive coworkers. Lesson: It has often been shown that a supportive network of friends and family has powerfully protective effects on health—and now it appears that social support among colleagues has similar benefits.

To strengthen your workplace connections: Make a point of talking face-to-face with coworkers rather than always relying on e-mail… eat meals together… expand workplace friendships to include nonwork-related social functions, such as a walking club, movie nights or a softball team.