Need a reason to call up a friend? Keeping a close network of friends may help you live longer, according to a University of Adelaide study.
The researchers used data from the Australian Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ALSA) and surveyed nearly 1,500 people, aged 70 and over, about their personal relationships with children, friends and relatives. The researchers monitored the participants for over a 10 year period, and considered other factors such as lifestyle and socio-economic status that might influence survival rates.
I have read numerous studies that indicate that it is our family that seems to exert the most influence on our quality of life. But the results of this study found that it was surprisingly friends, even more than family, who are more likely to increase longevity. The researchers found that even after major events such as the death of a partner or close relative, this benefit remained.
Here are some reasons that our friendships can help our longevity, not only making our lives healthier, but happier as well.
I didn’t need this study to tell me that friends have an effect on depression, morale and how we cope with loss and hard times. For me, I know this to be true. In good times and especially during difficult times, if it weren’t for my girlfriends, I would have long since given up. There is something about having my friends to laugh with, share with, and just “be” with, that seems to make me feel better no matter what else is going on in my life.
Our friends can make us take up healthier habits such as exercise, and they can make us quit the unhealthy ones, like smoking and drinking. “Friends possibly also encourage health seeking behavior, which in turn can affect survival,” the researchers said.
Friends add fun and dimension to your life. You can explore new places together, take classes, try new foods and just relax together. They provide a sense of joy and discovery you might be missing in your life or help you get back in touch with it.
According to the Mayo Clinic, friends not only prevent loneliness, but can also increase your sense of belonging and purpose and improve your self-worth.
Conversely, not having friends and being socially isolated can cause serious health problems and shorten your life. Numerous studies have found that people who are socially isolated have the same death rate caused by obesity and physical activity. Much of this is written about in the book The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest by Dan Buettner.
How do your friends make your life better? Please share some of the ways they do with other Care2 members.