With a little help from our friends we can stay healthier according to research emphasizing the role of social ties on our health.
Friends are difficult to come by. Forging lasting social ties is also a difficult task. So when friends are around, we should make sure we keep them around for long. Alongside the sense of fulfillment gained from having close friendship relations, we can reap a host of other benefits for our health, both mental and physical.
In 2004, a Gallup poll showed that 98 percent of Americans have at least one close friend. It sounds quite normal, doesn’t it? Well, in 1990, another Gallup poll recorded that the vast majority of Americans had 10 close friends on average. In 2006, a separate study found that the average number of friends a person trusted to discuss important issues with fell from 2.94 to 2.08 between 1985 and 2004.
Thus, friends are increasingly hard to come by. That is bad news as they are really important not only to upkeep our emotional health, but our physical health too. With a little help from our friends we can stay healthier in time.
Having friends and nurturing lasting relations in time will curb the risk of premature death. A study from 2010 found that friendships fare much better than exercise when it comes to one’s lifespan. In fact, they curb the risk of premature death twice the rate exercising does and fall on the same place as quitting smoking.
If that’s not sufficient, friendships considerably improve our physical health. A life led in isolation or mostly in isolation has been proven to lead to increased blood pressure, as well as a larger waist circumference, increased BMI. People who surround themselves with friends may be more active. This could explain why the above biomarkers are considerably improved with those who have a larger circle of friends than people who don’t.
In addition, recent research has shown that social ties are crucial for maintaining brain fitness. With age, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or any other form of dementia increases considerably. However, if we nurture lasting friendships and social ties into older age, the risk decreases significantly. Friends keep us young. Loneliness is at the heart of a host of health ailments, both physically and mentally.
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