Quality friendships really do benefit our mental and physical health. Historically, we always have lived in groups because it facilitated our survival. It’s easier to hunt, live, and provide security as a group. Today, we mostly live in family units or individually. But, our basic human needs for social support and belonging has not changed. Here are some of the many health benefits of your friendships.
Friends are especially good for your heart and can extend your life. A recent report(1) of a three year study of 13,600 women and men who had no or few friends found that this increased their chance of a first heart attack by 50%. In a study of women only, similar results were found. Women are twice as likely to die when they have the least social support. The women with the best friends had lower blood pressure, less diabetes, and less abdominal fat–better health.
The way this works is that social contact relieves stress which causes inflammation in your arteries. This continued inflammation leads to clogged arteries and heart disease. The study also reports that when younger people have a trusted friend to discuss difficult times, their pulse and blood pressure are lower. These results are measurable and confirmed by other studies.
The psychological benefits involves reducing your stress, increasing your mood and self-esteem while providing a sense of belonging. Talking with friends helps us debrief and cope with life’s traumas. Without friends, we can become isolated and depressed which shortens our lives.
But, this is not to say than any friend can bring these healthy benefits. We need quality friends who are positive, happy and helpful. Not those who always complain or take advantage of you because that just increases your stress. Another study found that we tend to eat more vegetables and fruits, exercise more, and successfully quit smoking if we have the support of friends. So, it’s confirmed, friends influence our behavior for better or worse.
In conclusion, we all need and can benefits from friendships. Since, we know how friends influence our behavior, we try to keep the most positive ones. Leaving unrewarding or difficult relationships behind is acceptable since quality is certainly better than quantity. I recently evaluated my set of friends and let an old friend go since he became toxic. Being open to establishing new friends is important especially when you start to see you old ones pass away.
Some people find it difficult to make new friends because it takes effort. You need to join clubs and organizations or volunteer. You have to get out there and act like a friend to make friends. So, just get involved with any social event that interests you. This effort is going to pay off on multiple health levels for you including your longevity. So, let’s go out and make a new friend today. L. Johnson of http://www.creativeretirementforwomen.com
Woolston, C. (3-11-15) Health Benefits of Friendships. Health Day. Retreived on 11-30-15 from: http://consumer.healthday.com/encyclopedia/emotional-health-17/psychology-and-mental-health-news-566/health-benefits-of-friendship-648397.html