Are Friends the Key to Longevity?

You need friends. Certainly, eating well, exercising and a healthy lifestyle are known to increase longevity and reduce the risk of death, but research reveals that having a lot of friends contributes to living a long and good life.

The numbers are staggering, actually. Studies show that social connections—friends, family, neighbors and colleagues—improve our odds of survival by 50%.

The following statistics from a recent study put it in perspective. Having few friends and low social interaction is equivalent to:

Smoking 15 cigarettes a day

Being an alcoholic

Not exercising

Twice the harm of obesity

There are many ways through which friends and family influence health in positive ways. As Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a lead researcher of the study, describes:

When someone is connected to a group and feels responsibility for other people, that sense of purpose and meaning translates to taking better care of themselves and taking fewer risks.

Relationships provide a level of protection for all ages. For children, friends are important to develop emotionally and socially. Having a wide circle of friends is the key to midlife well-being, and an active social network is critical for older adults too. The benefits of being social include reduced risk of cardiovascular problems, Alzheimer’s and depression.

Supportive and strong social networks are good for psychological and physical health. An important caveat—a recent study shows that frequent arguments with family and friends boost the risk of death. In other words, friends are good for you as long as you don’t bicker too much!

Bottom line: Cultivate friendships throughout your life. Treasure the ones you have and be open to making new ones.

A man’s friendships are one of the best measures of his worth.

– Charles darwin

I wish you all the best,

Dr. Samantha Boardman