5 Studies That Prove Friendship is Good For Our Health

They say that one is the loneliest number, and in a society that increasingly favors communicating through interfaces over face-to-face interaction, it’s no wonder that our youngest generation reports feeling more isolated than ever. The truth is, good friendships do more than just enhance our feelings of connectedness and belonging—they’re actually good for our physical well-being.

There are countless factors that go into determining someone’s health status, including—but not limited to—race, age, socioeconomics, income, sex and education. Just as feelings of isolation and loneliness have been linked with negative health issues, studies have shown that healthy and solid friendships are often linked with positive health outcomes.

Here are a handful of studies that further unpack the health benefits associated with good friendships.

two friends hugging

1. Carnegie Mellon University determined that frequent hugs can help protect against illnesses.

According to research from Carnegie Mellon University, perceived social support has the ability to act as a preventive barrier against infections commonly associated with higher stress levels.

“We know that people experiencing ongoing conflicts with others are less able to fight off cold viruses,” lead researcher Sheldon Cohen said in a press release. “We also know that people who report having social support are partly protected from the effects of stress on psychological states, such as depression and anxiety.”

The researchers tested whether hugs could partially account for feelings of support and determined that consensual hugs were responsible for a whopping one-third of the protective effect of social support.

2. Loughborough University found that close friendships may protect against dementia.

The study followed 6,677 people between the ages of 50 and 90 over a period of just under seven years and found that those people who reported close partnerships—be they romantic partnerships or platonic—had around a 60 percent less chance of developing dementia than their lonelier peers.

“You can be surrounded by people, but it is the number of close relationships that are associated with a reduced risk for dementia… it’s not about the quantity,” lead author Dr. Eef Hogervorst told the BBC.

friends at the beach

3. George Mason University found that women with more social support are less likely to die prematurely.

A 2019 study from George Mason University explored the effect of perceived social support on cardiovascular disease (CVD) and mortality in women aged 50-79. Ultimately, the researchers discovered that women who reported lower levels of social support had about a 20 percent higher death rate over 10 years when compared to those who reported having high levels of social support.

“It’s a reminder that sometimes the simplest things—like reaching out to a loved one—can have the most profound impact,” lead researcher Dr. Nancy Freeborne said in a press release.

4. The University of Chicago determined that perceived connectedness is linked to lower blood pressure in aging adults.

Researchers studied 229 people between the ages of 50 to 68, asking them to answer questionnaires that rated their perceived connections with others across a variety of topics. Folks who ranked as more lonely were found to have blood pressure readings that were a full 30 points higher than non-lonely patients, thereby increasing their risk of death from stroke and heart disease.

friends sitting together in a windowsill

5. Radboud University Nijmegen found that friendships help us regulate our stress levels.

The study followed around 100 fourth graders to determine the effects that feelings of social exclusion and victimization had on cortisol, a human stress hormone that helps us respond to potential threats.

Researchers found that feelings of exclusion had a much higher impact on increased cortisol levels than did victimization and that friendships and connection served as bulwarks against negative effects associated with stress.

“Together, the results demonstrate that although friends cannot completely eliminate the stress of exclusion at school, they do reduce it,” professor Marianne Riksen-Walraven said in a press release. “And the number and quality of children’s friendships can serve as a buffer against being rejected.”

Images via Unsplash

39 comments

Teresa W
Teresa W4 months ago

Friendship is essential, but it doesn't have to involve hugs.

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Teresa W
Teresa W4 months ago

I hate hugs. I have always hated them.

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Anna R
Anna R4 months ago

Thank you

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JoAnn Paris
JoAnn Paris4 months ago

Thank you for this very interesting article.

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Marija M
Marija M4 months ago

Friendship is good always, everywhere...

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Sherry K
Sherry K4 months ago

Many thanks to you !

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Danuta W
Danuta W4 months ago

thank you for posting

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Anne Moran
Anne M4 months ago

I find the opposite to be truer.. - I enjoy my company, and I have Brian, my companion of 23 years.. - That's all I need.. - Friends come with baggage,, and i have enough of my own,, don't want to add more drama to my life.. - At this point in my life,, I need quiet time,, not the phone ringing and having to listen to other people's problems... - I have had enough of mine, to fill 2 lifetimes.. - But I do volunteer at the food bank and also at the nursing home where I gladly give hugs to all the old folk... xo

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Mona M
Mona M4 months ago

thank you although most of us do not need a confirmation study from the university to realize how good friendship is, in all aspects of our life.

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Janet B
Janet B4 months ago

Thanks

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