Friendship is a very, very interesting subject. As you will see, meaningful deep friendships keep us healthy.
Friendships often start with the formalities of giving and taking. For example, I provide you with knowledge and some good stuff to read, you provide me with appreciation, and over time, we will develop a long, healthy friendship, which won’t have to depend on how much we talk anymore.
I know that you’re thinking about your friends right now, and if you aren’t, you will miss them after we’ve discussed the brilliant health benefits of friendships. Shall we start?
1. Having pals generally keeps us healthier
Not to mention the philosophical reasons and explanations, I have some facts and evidence to propose as well.
When biological statistics of people having big social circles were compared with that of socially isolated people, the researchers measured relevant biomarkers like body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, waist circumference and C-reactive protein, an inflammation marker. It was found that the measures of these biomarkers of socially isolated people were worse than those who had friends. The study was reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (January 2015).
For example, in older people, a lack of social linkages raised the risk of high blood pressure by 124 percent and the risk of diabetes by 70 percent.
But, it’s hard to determine which of the factors is the cause and which is the result. The beauty of the study was that the recording of the data spanned years, so they could see the changes with time.
Other research has found that having friends, meeting and hugging them often has also been found to decrease stress and risks of infections.
2. Friendship may sharpen your mind
Believe it or not, studies have found that friendships may sharpen your mind.
A 2012 study found that the risk of dementia increased with their increased feelings of loneliness.
The researchers studied more than 2,000 residents of the Netherlands aged 65 or older for three years. The report was published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry. No participant had dementia when the study began, but later, 13.4 percent of the people who felt lonely at the start of the study developed the condition over the period, whereas 5.7 percent of the people who didn’t feel lonely went on to develop dementia.
The study, however, concluded that the feeling of loneliness and not wanting to be alone was associated with a higher risk of dementia onset. The researchers found an association but couldn’t determine whether the loneliness was caused by dementia itself.
3. Friends are influential
We all are. They all are. While you’re thinking about your friend, did you just forget that you’re also a friend to others?
Friends can influence us in many different ways. They can influence us to stop smoking or be the reason we got addicted to those cigarette packs in the first place. They can influence you to start working out, or sometimes lose all the motivation altogether.
You probably know that obesity is contagious. A 2007 study found that when one person gained unexpected pounds, their friends became more likely to do so as well.
The researchers drew data from a comprehensive study, the Framingham Heart Study. It followed people over time and allowed researchers to find causal inferences. It was found that friends of an obese person were 57 percent more likely to follow the pattern.
The converse of this was also determined to be true in a separate 2011 study.
Whenever our friends get into a new habit, we tend to get influenced. It is both a boon and a bane, so you must choose who you hang out with wisely. Friends shape our lives big time!
4. They can help us handle rejection
A 2011 study found that fourth-graders who had friends could cope with the stress of being picked on or being rejected by other classmates better.
The researchers measured the levels of one stress hormone, cortisol, in the kids’ saliva. They found that being apart from their peers raised the kids’ cortisol levels, possibly indicating chronic stress.
Ironically, getting picked on didn’t raise cortisol levels suggesting that getting left out may upset the child more than getting negative attention.
To get deeper into it, the cortisol level increase in kids with fewer or low-quality friendships was more pronounced than those who had more or closer friendships.
5. …and a lot more stuff
Yeah, we need somebody to lean on! Research on cancer patients suggests that friends can help with the pain and suffering of patients.
A study published in the journal The Lancer in 1989 found that women with breast cancer who were assigned support groups with other cancer patients had a better quality of life and reportedly lived longer than those who weren’t assigned to any such support groups.
Other studies have since debated if social support groups can help improve survival time. While some research suggests that they do, others find no effect.
There is still widespread evidence and agreement that support groups improve cancer patients’ quality of life.
6. Friends extend our life
Literally. If you have strong social relationships, you are less likely to die prematurely than those who are isolated.
According to a 2010 research review, the effect of social ties is twice as that of exercising on life span, and equivalent to the impact of quitting smoking.
The researchers examined 148 pre-existing studies on mortality and social links that included more than 300,000 participants. The studies found that measures of the strength of their relationships were linked to decreased mortality.
Researchers believe that friendships and health of a person are related to the body’s processing of stress. The body’s stress response, characterized by the fight-or-flight responses, is required when we are in danger or attacked by pathogens. But chronic stress can also come with isolation and can switch the stress response on for long periods, causing internal damage to the body – reducing your natural life expectancy.
Growing and maintaining friendships
In adulthood, making or maintaining friendships is harder than anything else; we have to earn, make major decisions, some get married, some have kids, some have big businesses to handle, some have jobs. We all have to maintain our lifestyles and get busy in our own lives.
We also often lose interest in socializing and friendships when we start focusing on ourselves and our families. We start thinking that life is easier that way, when, in fact, it is not!
You now know that friendships are also essential for remaining healthy and living a good, full life. Take time out for your friends, socialize, give at least one day of your week to your friends.
This all may sound a simple for the people who have merely lost touch with their friends, but those who don’t have friends and are highly introverted may be petrified.
Some ways to meet new people and grow friendships
It isn’t as difficult as you think it is. You may not always have to meet new people to start a friendship. You can look for potential friends in people that you’ve already known.
Like the people you’ve worked with or taken classes with, been friends in the past, but have lost touch, and your distant relatives.
Moreover, you can also start attending social gatherings and parties, volunteering in social events, inviting potential friends like neighbors for lunch or dinner, joining a sports or activity club or a faith community or merely taking a walk can help you meet new people.
Always remember that it is never too late to rekindle old friendships or start a new one. Take your friends along and sing, “It’s always a good time!”