How Friendships Improve Health

Move over omega 3’s and colorful berries!  There’s something else on the menu for good health and longevity…friendship.

In numerous studies, researchers are finding that people who have strong friendships age better, recover from illness quicker, have stronger immunity, and live longer.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the benefits of friendship include stress reduction, improving your self-image, decreasing your risk of serious mental illness, and the presence of a support system during life’s joys and difficult transitions.

A 2008 Harvard Study concluded that having a robust social life delays memory loss among elderly Americans.  A 10-year Australian study found that older adults who had strong social networks lived longer than those who did not have them.

A team of Brigham Young University researchers announced in 2010 their conclusions after reviewing 148 studies examining the effects of social relationships on health.  Over 308,000 people were represented in these studies.  Their bottom line: it is more harmful to have low levels of social interaction than it is not to exercise, and it is twice as harmful as obesity.

The power seems to lie in friendships, moreso than in having a spouse or family.  According to Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, “Friendship has a bigger impact on our psychological well-being than family relationships.”

Next: 5 ways to build friendships

With innumerable television channels, on-demand programming, and websites willing and available to consume our days, it’s easy to have a life characterized by far more screen-time than face time with friends.  While some of us are fortunate to have quality friendships extending back to early childhood or our college days, it’s never too late to begin building your friendship circle.  With a clear intention to have and become a good friend, you can improve this area of your life, enhancing the joy, fun and overall health in your life.  Some suggestions:

  • Make time for coffee or a walk with the friends you already have.
  • Remember everyone doesn’t have to become your best friend.  Some folks might be good work-out partners or pet-walking buddies.  What matters most is to connect authentically on some basis.
  • Pick up the phone: There’s nothing like connecting in real time, even if it’s not face-to-face.  In the above-mentioned research, not all of the friendships were local.  But they were genuine and the friends stayed connected.
  • Get out of the house: Whether you decide to volunteer, join a bowling league, or just have coffee each morning in a favorite café, engage in some activity that will break your isolation.
  • Sow plentifully: Not all of your invitations to friendship will be received the way you’d like.  Sometimes other people are busy, have hectic lives or problems you don’t know about, or they’re just not in a space of friendship building.  Don’t waste time taking it personally.  Keep planting seeds of friendship with a variety of people.  You never really know who will prove, over time, to be your truest mates.

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Jess No Fwd Plz K.
Jessica K.2 years ago

Great advice, liked how the writer made it clear that every person doesn't have to be your bff, just a great positive connection in some way. If you have trouble finding decent people around for some reason, then try being a really good friend to yourself. At least you'll have the pleasure of your own company in your own skin.

Kathleen Cazander

thank you

Alyssa Riley
Alyssa Riley3 years ago

I cant make friends. Im seriously depressed. I say hi to people when I go on walks, I go to the library and hope someone might talk to me. No one in college talks to me and Im a perfectly fine looking gal. Every friend I expected to have in life at this moment is missing. I dont know what to do.

Masha Samoilova
Past Member 4 years ago

thanks, but I do count my husband as a friend

Alicia T.
Alicia Todd4 years ago


Beverly L.
Beverly L.5 years ago

I work alone at home so I don't have the job interaction. I come from a very dysfunctional family that always seems to bring me down. I am so thankful for my friends ~ they are life-saving!

jane richmond
jane richmond5 years ago

True friends are hard to find. When you find them hold on. They are more precious than diamonds.
When you're up its easy to have friends everyone likes to be around a winner. It's when things get tough that you really find out who your friends are.

Mari Basque
Mari 's5 years ago

Stop eating meat for awhile and you'll see a different you...

Carolyn Dakin
Carolyn Dakin5 years ago

I have a lot of friendships that are up to four decades old and I'm only 50. Long standing friendships are wonderful but so too are friends you've just met

Janice P.
Janice P.5 years ago

It is absolutely true that good, strong friendships do make a person's life better and do help improve a person's health. The opposite is also true. Therefore, it is a good idea to make certain that ones friends are healthy people, themselves.

I developed a friendship with someone whose life circumstances are horrible. This person has been abused on a continual basis by her neighbor and her landlord. She is unemployed and often without food, money, transportation, a telephone, and other services a human being needs to live. I have sent her money and made offers repeatedly, over many months, to pay first and last month's rent, plus moving expenses for her, so she can get out of her untenable situation and move to a different place, which would be close to jobs and transportation. I have even offered to give her my deceased father's car. She has refused and ignored every single offer of assistance I made. Trying to save her has caused so much stress to me, that it has made me ill.

Sometimes, you have to recognize when a friendship is toxic and when it is actually harmful. You cannot save a person from herself. Trying to do so will only harm you, but it will never improve the position of the other person. Some people would prefer to be a victim. It is very sad, but, for your own health's sake, if you come across a person like that, you just have to bless them, but walk away.