Friends with Health Benefits - How Having Good Friends Lead to a Healthier and Longer Life

By Amy Taylor on September 04, 2012

Have you called your best today to say thank you? Then you should! You need to thank them for being with you, for making you smile, for wiping your tears the last time you felt so broke, and for lengthening your life. Yes, you read it right. In a new study, scientists found that having good friends make people live longer.

A group of Australian researchers analysed how health, lifestyle and social factors affected the survival rates of older people. Their study, which began in 1992, involved 1,500 older adults, ages 70 and above. The participants were followed for over a decade, checking their survival rates after every 3 and four years. Data were gathered from the Australian Longitudinal Study of Aging (ALSA).

As part of the study, the researchers asked how much phone and personal contact the participants had with their family, relatives and friends.

The results were surprising. They found that close contact with children and family had a little impact on the participants’ survival rates as compared to their relationships with friends or social networks. According to Lynne Giles, the study lead author, from Flinders University, in Adelaide, one possible reason for this is that people could choose their friends, as opposed to family members.

They noticed that those who had strong ties with friends tend to live longer than those who don’t have.

Friends with Health Benefits

True friends are there, through thick and thin. The researchers suggest that friends may encourage people to live healthy, reduce anxiety and depression, and promote wellbeing, especially during the most difficult times.

In his comments, Anthony Jorm of the Australian National University suggests that the study has shown that social networks can be modified with benefits to health, and would serve as basis for widespread health promotion.

It is essential that people constantly build and maintain new relationships, explained Dr Lorna Layward, research manager for Help the Aged. This is because as they get older, people may lose friends.

Broadening your Social Circle

A simple “hi” and “hello” could do a lot of wonders to your friendship. Being someone else’s friend comes with responsibilities too. It is not enough that you consider a person your friend. You should also give time and value each and every time spent with them. Arranging a day with your social circle at least once a week or twice a month (amidst your busy schedule) is one way to keep the relationship going. As we get older, we tend to give less time to friends, especially when we start having a family of our own. However, it isn’t an excuse to be there with your friends and share precious moments together. After all, they’re playing a major role in your health!

The modern world has made it possible to connect with them every day. We have Skype, Facebook, Twitter and many other social networks that help us stay updated with the whereabouts of the closest people in our lives. Maybe tonight, when you’re not that busy, you could spend an hour searching for your long lost friends, or chatting with your “bests”.  Knowing there are real people who cares for you could be enough to sustain that good feeling and keep your mind, body and spirit hale and hearty for many, many years to come.

 

Source of this article:

Friends ’help people live longer’, BBC News

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