FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS, HEALTH BENEFITS THAT IS!
Your mother has been urging you to play nice and make friends since playground days. Heck, you’re even guilty of pushing your own children toward the sandbox with hopes that they’ll thrive socially and make fast pals with the other little girls and boys.
Decades later, if you’re lucky enough to have close friendships left over from childhood, there’s mom to thank. Her play yard prodding is the reason you have someone to cry, laugh and talk with whenever the need or want should arise. But more than that, new research shows that your friends may be the key to good health. Yes! Friends.
Social life may play a larger role in a person’s health than one might think.
A recent study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill made a concrete connection between living a longer, healthier life, and maintaining social connections.
The first of its kind, the study connected relationships with real measures of physical well-being, including high blood pressure, abdominal obesity and inflammation — health issues that can lead to long-term problems like heart disease, stroke and cancer. The research builds upon previous work that found older adults live longer if they have more social connections.
Researchers said the conclusions from this study were even more promising — determining that a person’s social relationships play a role in decreasing health risk.
The study analyzed three dimensions of social relationships: social integration, social support and social strain. Researchers then studied how an individual’s relationships were associated with four key indicators for mortality risk: blood pressure, waist circumference, body mass index and circulating levels of C-reactive protein, a measure of systemic inflammation.
Similarly, a lack of social integration was connected to obesity.
In older participants, social isolation was more dangerous than diabetes when it came to developing and controlling hypertension. In both early and late adulthood, the size of an individual’s social network was important, while in middle adulthood, the support provided by social relationships played a much greater role than the number of relationships.
The effect of emotional health on physical well-being is being understood more and more clearly as research continues. This particular study points out the importance of quality and supportive relationships in life.
So time to go back to the grown up sandbox and focus on maintaining your friendships and cultivating new ones. Take part in social events. Benefitting others is life changing.
I see how being there for my own dad has impacted his life and mine. You can see him in the picture above, 90 years strong and counting, celebrating his birthday surrounded by loved ones.