The Healing Power of Friendship

Friendships are good for our mental, physical, and emotional health. Studies have found that having good friends can add years to your life, keep your brain sharp, and stave off loneliness which is a major risk factor for dementia.

According Everyday Health, a study published in the Journals of Gerontology found that loneliness is associated with a 40% increased risk of dementia. And another study published in “JAMA Medicine” found that loneliness increased the risk of functional decline in study subjects over the age of 60, and also shortened their lifespan.

The University of Michigan Health researchers said that older adults who reported feelings of isolation were one and a half times more likely to die during the six-year period of the study. They were also unable to perform simple tasks such as walking around the block or lifting weights compared do people who were socially connected.

According to Everyday Health, it is the quality and not the quantity of friends that count when it comes to bolstering your health and well-being. Rosemary Blieszner, PH.D., an expert in gerontology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, says if you have at least one person who understands you and you can relate to honestly, that is enough to keep you feeling healthy.

On the other hand, an interesting study published in the Journal of Oncology showed that women who had breast cancer were four times more likely to survive the disease if they had 10 or more close friends than those who did not, according to Psychology Today.

Blieszner says that social interaction with friends keeps your thinking and cognitive skills sharp.

“People who are socially isolated and not stimulated are the ones who tend to have lower cognitive ability in old age,” she says, according to Everyday Health. She adds that besides keep your mentally fit, friends encourage others to eat well and stay physically fit.

“There can be a connection between the health habits you’re making and how that might be influenced by friends,” she says. “If they’re healthy and encourage you, you gain benefits.”

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