Friendship is good for the heart and soul. Friends may not come with a prescription, but they can help you live a longer and healthier life.
It’s inherent: Humans are social animals and we are conditioned to survive best in groups. With social connections we’re more comfortable, relaxed and at peace, which directly relate to better health. A lack of strong social ties actually increases our mortality.
Research has shown that people who have nurturing and long-lasting friendships live longer and enjoy better health and quality of life. A 10-year study of nearly 1,500 seniors found that those with a large network of friends outlived those with the fewest number of friends by 20 percent.
Interestingly, women with breast cancer participating in support groups are more likely to live twice as long as those who don’t. The strong social support improves emotional well-being while helping women cope with the stress of fighting cancer.
The Health Benefits of Frienship
So having friends is good for our health. But how, exactly, do our social connections help us live longer?
- Healthy friends and friendships discourage poor health choices and advocate living a healthier lifestyle.
- The encouragement and support of a healthy social network provides dissuades depressive behavior, boosts physical and mental activity, and increases self-esteem.
- Connecting with others helps relieve the stressors that adversely influence gut function, coronary arteries, the immune system and insulin regulation. In fact, the acts of caring nurturing actually increase production of stress-reducing hormones.
- Optimism is created by friends who help you realize your priorities, provide helpful guidance and motivate you to reach your goals — all key aspects for a better life.
- Hugs from loved ones cure your anxiety. Hugging literally stimulates nerves that send calming messages to the mind and inhibit the release of cortisol.
So why not do something for yourself and for those you love this week? Spend some quality time with friends — offline!
If you’d like to learn more about how social connections benefit our health, visit Renown Behavioral Health.