For most people, friendships are an integral part of life. Sharing experiences is part of being human. And numerous studies have shown that loneliness has a negative effect on our well-being. Friendship has a positive impact on mental health, but can it also have physical benefits? Medical News Today reviews the evidence and interviews experts to find out why friendships are good for our health and well-being.
We don’t need to be social all the time – sometimes we need to take advantage of our own space – but everyone needs social interactions.
This is why people make friends and work to maintain those friendships. And quality friendships will benefit everyone involved.
Human beings are a social species. Since the earliest times, people have needed
Although animal friendships have been referred to as anthropomorphism, research has now shown that some animals form stable, long-term relationships just like human friendships.
Of course, not all animals have such friendships – as far as we know, these are limited to those that
The basis of friendship is to value each other – each individual offers something of value to another individual.
As humans, we value others for all kinds of reasons. They might like the same things we do, hold similar political views, or maybe help with work or chores.
Once we have decided that we like someone, more often than not we will work to maintain that friendship.
Talk with Medical News TodayDr. Scott Kaiser, geriatrician and director of geriatric cognitive health for the Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, had this to say about the role of friendship in the evolution of mankind :
“Research suggests that evolution has continually chosen to increase social bonding with social interaction and networks playing a major role in people’s survival. According to this framework, our ancestors formed social bonds – by working together , sharing food and helping each other in other ways – to feel safe and protected.
“Humans are wired to connect and social connections are an essential part of good health and well-being – we need them to survive and thrive, just like we need food, water and oxygen. “, said Dr. Kaiser.
As children, most of us find it easy to make friends, but adults may find it more difficult. The good news is that the benefits of childhood friendships stay with us well into adulthood.
In one study, boys were followed at age 32. Those who said they had lots of friends in childhood had lower blood pressure and were more likely to be at a healthy weight than those who were less social.
And it’s not just close friendships that are good for us. People of all ages benefit from any type of social interaction. A
The study went on to suggest that loneliness can lead to many psychiatric disorders, such as depression, personality disorders, alcohol use and sleep disturbances, and can even contribute to physical health problems.
So, does socializing help protect against mental health disorders? Almost certainly, as Lee Chambers, psychologist and founder of Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing, said. DTM.
“Having friends,” he noted, “has the potential to shield us from the impact of loneliness, and having effective friendships can shield us from the damaging effects of loneliness.”
But what is an effective friendship? According
Effective friendships provide a strong sense of togetherness, alleviate feelings of loneliness, and contribute to both life satisfaction and self-esteem.
And there is a
Lack of social interaction not only affects our mental health.
“Social isolation and loneliness have negative health effects on par with obesity, physical inactivity and smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and are associated with an increased risk of dementia of about 50 %. Just take a moment [to] connecting with someone — even through a brief phone call — can reduce feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression and provide brain-protective benefits.
– Dr. Scott Kaiser
A 2010 meta-analysis of 148 studies – examining data from a total of 308,849 people – found that participants with stronger social connections had a 50% higher chance of surviving an average of 7.5 years than those who had none.
This study concluded that “[s]Social relationship-based interventions represent a major opportunity to improve not only quality of life but also survival.
The chambers agreed:
“Studies have shown that strong friendships can reduce risk factors for poor long-term health, including waist circumference, blood pressure and levels of inflammation. Emotional support plays an important role in this. , with someone to listen, validate feelings, and be a positive distraction, an important structure in modern life, alongside encouragement and support to adopt healthier behaviors and improve health outcomes.
This support and encouragement can benefit even those who enjoy exercising. A 2017 study of medical students found that those who took a weekly group exercise class had significantly lower stress levels than those who did the same amount of exercise alone.
Thus, all the evidence suggests that socializing benefits both our mental and physical health. But why? The key could be oxytocin.
Oxytocin is a hormone and a neurotransmitter, produced in the hypothalamus. It is involved in childbirth and lactation, but is also associated with empathy,
But why does oxytocin have physical benefits? These are probably due to its effect on cortisol – the stress hormone. Study participants who received oxytocin intranasally had lower cortisol levels than those who received a placebo when subjected to the stress of public speaking.
The adrenal glands release cortisol when a person is stressed. It’s good for emergencies because it prepares us for action, but bad when it happens in the long run. Among other things, long-term high cortisol can cause high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and fatigue.
So keeping cortisol levels low is a good idea. This is where socialization comes in. When we are relaxed during
“Connection is important, but it’s not just about the numbers – amassing as many friends as possible on your favorite social media platform or in the real world – but the quality of those connections and enjoying the invaluable benefits of meaningful and supportive relationships.”
– Dr. Scott Kaiser
We all value time for ourselves, and some friendships can have a negative influence on our health and well-being, but there’s plenty of evidence that supportive relationships do us good.
So even the loners among us should recognize that getting out and connecting with people can make us happier and healthier, and it might even make us live longer.