Friendships are one of the most important facets of life. Friends can enhance and help us celebrate the best times—from weddings to graduations and new careers—as well as help us get through the worst of times (i.e., divorces, deaths, and layoffs).
That’s why friendships are so crucial to helping maintain our mental and physical health. Simply put, it’s incredibly important that people have a dependable social network in place to help them weather the storm of life. So, in a specific way, let’s examine how friendship affects our health and wellness?
Having Friends Extends Our lives
A study conducted by a group of psychologists from the University of Chicago found that people who have strong social networks are less likely to die prematurely compared to people who feel isolated and alone. In fact, some research has shown that having resilient social ties to other people can significantly extend one’s life span.
Experts believe that having strong and stable friendships can help us to manage stress, which can have a dramatically impact on our physical health. If you know that you’ll have people by your side in times of worry, it can make a huge difference when trying to manage the situation.
Friends Make Us Generally Healthier
Having lots of friends doesn’t just extend our life span—it can also help us lead healthier lives. Studies of people ranging in age from teens to those in their 90s showed that people with larger social networks had healthier and better blood pressure than those with fewer friends.
Again, the thinking is that having extended social networks relieves stress and helps us manage the many challenges life throws at us—from health scares to breakups, divorces, and lost jobs—it’s all easier with support from friends.
Friendships Keep the Mind Sharp
Having great friends can make every day a little bit better. But that’s not all! Friends can also help us keep the mind sharp and focused by engaging us in conversation.
In fact, studies have shown that people with larger social networks were far less likely to develop dementia in old age compared to those people with fewer friends. This is because regularly conversation with others can help maintain many different parts of the brain, keeping us thinking more clearly.
Friends Help Us Make Better Decisions
How many times have you turned to a close friend for advice? Probably hundreds or even thousands of times. The right friends can help us make wise decisions, help steer us away from trouble and keep us on the track to success.
Of course, that’s not always the case. If your life appears to be on the wrong track—meaning you’re struggling in your relationships, career, or with finances—you may want to re-evaluate your friendships and the influence they have over your life.
Friends Help Us Get Through Difficult Moments
There’s no denying that having supportive friends around us can help us get through the hardest times in life. Imagine going through a messy divorce or the death of a loved one without the support of a close friend. It would be very difficult, lonely, and painful.
Now, research supports this position. Studies from BreastCancer.org show that women with breast cancer who had large and vibrant social networks tended to live longer than those who remained comparatively isolated, and did not connect with others.
Friends Can Help Us Overcome Relationship Breakdowns
Is there anything worse than having an intense and long-term relationship come to an end? Probably, though at the time, it’s hard to imagine anything more painful and heart-wrenching.
The good news is that many of us have great friends that can step in and help us overcome these difficult moments in our lives. Studies have shown that people with extended social networks were better able to manage the stress associated with rejection than the people who had fewer high-quality friendships.