Friendships enrich your life and improve your health.
Most people would agree that having friends usually makes life more enjoyable. Did you know that having a good social network also helps to prevent cardiovascular disease and immune problems? Research shows that people who have good support from friends test with lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in their blood. High levels of cortisol are linked to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and immune system suppression leading to a higher incidence of cancers, food allergies, gastrointestinal disorders and obesity with its related risks. Additionally, research has shown that one’s life expectancy is reduced as one’s social network gets smaller.
Having good friends brings us an increased sense of well-being and confidence, boosts our happiness and gives us a feeling of belonging in the world. We are better able to cope with trauma, disappointment and loss, and are not as prone to depression.
Friends make the insurmountable seem more manageable. In one study, participants stood at the base of a very steep hill and estimated how difficult it would be to climb it. Those standing with friends thought the hill to be less steep than those who were on their own. Of the friends group, the longer they had known each other, the gentler they thought the incline to be.
Another study found that people with good social networks were less prone to suffer dementia. Perhaps an active social life keeps your brain more active as well!
Although beneficial for everyone, there are some differences in the friendships of men and women. Research shows that women are geared more towards empathy and men towards companionship and altruism.
As we all know, there are times when friends can be the cause of our stress. In fact research shows that conflicts with friends raise blood pressure higher than conflicts with people we are not connected to. That being said, we are still better off with them than without. We all benefit from having friends and it is never too late to make them.