The Health Benefits of Friendship


Having good friends means more than just having someone to hang out with, they can also help you be healthier.

Today's media gives a lot of attention to diet pills, herbal supplements, exercise videos, diet books, and the newest weight loss clubs. Exercise is also stressed as critical to maintaining good health. However, not nearly enough attention is given to the importance of mental health in living a long, healthy life. What goes on inside your mind plays a big role in how your body responds. No wonder studies have shown that friendship can play a role in health and actually improve your chances of being fit and even fighting disease! According to an article published in the New York Times, here's what studies have found.

friends and health

It took centuries before anyone even proposed that relationships might have an effect on health. Luckily though, ever since the millennium hit, scientists have finally caught on. In 2008, Harvard researchers exposed that strong social ties can promote brain health. Single person relationships such as marriages have not shown to improve health as much, but friendships have. In a six-year study of 736 middle-age Swedish men, strong friendships appeared to affect the risk of heart attack and fatal coronary heart disease. It's not always clear exactly how friendship contributes to health. The most practical conclusion is that proximity is what helps. However, your friends don't even have to actually be there with you for you to know they're there for you. Being close to someone can really assist in the mental battle we fight when we are sick. In 2006, a study of almost 3,000 nurses with breast cancer found that women without close friends were four times as likely to die from the disease as women with 10 or more friends. The women's friends didn't even have to be there with them. Just the fact that the particular women had more friends in their lives helped them fight.

When we feel accepted and loved by peers, we are more likely to take better care of ourselves. People with more friends are even less likely to get colds. This can probably be attributed to the decreased levels of stress. Friends make life easier to handle. Friends can help you feel better about a situation, which might improve your outcome. The loss of hope in terminal disease patients has been linked to their survival and the amount of time they have left to live. People with close friends by their side feel they have someone to turn to and usually live longer than those that go it alone. It may sound trivial, but in situations like these it counts.

Also in 2008, sociologists did a study of 34 students at the University of Virginia. The students were fitted with heavy backpacks and taken to the bottom of a steep hill. Everyone was asked to estimate the steepness of the hill, some standing alone and some standing next to friends. The students who stood with their friends were significantly more optimistic about the steepness of the hill and how difficult it would be to make it to the top. Friendship improves attitudes about obstacles, making them easier to overcome. WebMD encourages people to keep their friends involved in their weight loss goals. People who go into weight loss plans with the support of friends and family tend to be more successful at losing the weight as well as maintaining after.

Whatever you go through in life, friendship can help you through it, but you knew that. You probably didn't know that the magic of friendship also applies to your health. You never have to go it alone. Make sure that you find time for a social life along with all your stressful responsibilities. It could help you live a longer, healthier life.