Having good friends can protect us from sickness and sadness!
When The Beatles sang about getting by with a little help from their friends, they probably didn’t know the half of it. It turns out that in addition to making life more enjoyable, friendships can help you get—and stay—healthier. In fact, research suggests that having close companions may make it easier to cope with stress, bounce back from hardship, and ditch unhealthy habits such as smoking. Other benefits of having friends: You may be less susceptible to colds and harmful inflammation.
Camaraderie can even help you heal from life-threatening illnesses. In a 2010 study involving 2,411 people who’d had heart attacks, researchers at Yale University found that women who had the highest levels of social support had a better quality of life, better physical functioning and fewer depressive symptoms than those with the least social support.
Friendships work their magic in several ways. “Feeling connected to people you value, trust and love may provide the meaning and purpose essential to the human condition and perhaps to longevity” says Carlos Mendes de Leon, Ph.D., professor of internal medicine at Chicago’s Rush Institute for Healthy Aging. “Friendships may strengthen you mentally and physically, and that may be instrumental in slowing down chronic disease processes that can lead to disability.”
What are the characteristics of a good friendship? Research from Rosemary Blieszner, Ph.D., a professor in the department of human development at Virginia Tech Graduate School in Blacksburg, has found that healthy, nurturing friendships allow people to express their affection and caring for each another openly, feel that the other person listens and resolve disagreements by talking them out in a constructive way. “They don’t let it fester,” Blieszner says. And true friends respect each other’s boundaries. “There are some things your good friend won’t want to talk about, and you have to accept that,” Blieszner says.
From our sister publication, REMEDY Fall 2010