Friends, Health, and Longevity: Live Longer with a Little Help from Your Friends?
Humans are inherently social creatures. We know this. Looking at our species through an evolutionary lens, we tend to talk about our need for social connection as it relates to survival. Our ancestors needed to work in teams to hunt, collect water and firewood, build shelters, rear young, keep watch for predators, and all the other business of staying alive. While that’s undoubtedly true, our need for affiliation runs much deeper than those practical concerns. Our health and well-being quite literally depend on having strong social bonds with others. Even when our survival is assured thanks to safe housing, easy access to clean water and plentiful food, medical care, and financial security, lonely or socially isolated individuals are likely to die sooner. On the flip side, a robust social support network is associated with better physical and mental health outcomes and longer lives. Friends, it turns out, have a profound impact on health and longevity. Of course, it’s not just about the number of years we have but how we spend them, and good friends also make our lives more enjoyable in countless ways. Are Good Friends a Key to Longevity and Healthspan? There’s no doubt that social integration and social support are associated with greater health and longevity, while the opposite, social isolation and loneliness, significantly increase mortality risk. In a 2010 meta-analysis covering 148 studies and 308,849 participants, the researchers concluded that individuals with strong social ties were 50 percent more likely to survive compared to those with weak social networks. When the researchers looked only at studies with more in-depth measurements of social connectedness, that number jumped to 90 percent. Participants who reported being less lonely similarly enjoyed a 47 percent survival advantage. Your social network includes partners, children, extended family, neighbors, coworkers, clergy, even your favorite barista or librarian, but friends are special. Friendships are voluntary (unlike family), mutual (unlike children or your boss, with whom equality and reciprocity are not expected), and, for close friends at least, intimate (unlike coworkers or neighbors, probably). Good friendships are built on liking and mutual respect, and the best friends bring out the best in you. It’s obvious how friends help you live better, but how might they help you live longer? Friends May Encourage Healthy Habits Much of the research on social influence and healthy (or unhealthy) behaviors focuses on adolescents and how peers affect things like diet and exercise choices, but it’s not just teens who are influenced by their friends. Adults are more likely to be physically active when they have supportive friends, friends who exercise themselves,, and friends who double as workout buddies. Robust and supportive friendships help people maintain their sobriety. Individuals who feel more socially supported may find it easier to manage chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes. It’s not just that friends serve as role models or accountability partners, making sure we stick to our resolutions, although they do. Nor do friends merely provide practical support (picking up a prescription, watching your … Continue reading Friends, Health, and Longevity: Live Longer with a Little Help from Your Friends?The post Friends, Health, and Longevity: Live Longer with a Little Help from Your Friends? appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple