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Five surprising ways friendships affect our health and well-being

11 December 2017

Five surprising ways friendships affect our health and well-being

It’s not surprising that good friendships make us happier. However, what may surprise some people is how much they affect our health.

Friendship and its impact on the body and mind has been the subject of scientific interest for many years. We’ve delved into the research to bring you some of the more surprising ways friendship can affect us in our everyday lives.

Friendship could be as important to a long, healthy life as quitting smoking or exercise

Strong social relationships could be as beneficial to your health as ceasing smoking and twice as beneficial as physical activity. Research has shown that those who form long-lasting relationships are less likely to die early.

A study conducted by Brigham Young University in Utah including more than 300,000 participants found that factors such as number of friends, integration into a community and strong friendships were all linked to decreased mortality.

Having a best friend increases self-worth, and can reduce anxiety and depression

Research has found that forming a close friendship during mid-adolescence (ages 15-17) not only increased feelings of self worth, but also means you are less likely to show anxiety of depressive symptoms in early adulthood.

Interesting, in contrast, the same research found that making many friends, that are not as close had the opposite effect and showed signs of lower self-worth. They also found that those who had a best friend, or very close friend found it easier to deal with social development going forward. Whereas those with many peers prioritised attaining popularity.

Friends may be more important than family

Forming friendships actually becomes more important to health and well-being as people age. It’s so important that research by the Journal of Personal Relationships found that having stronger friends had a more positive impact on well-being that having close family connections.

Additionally, the research found that when our friends are found to be a source of strain, we are more likely to develop chronic illnesses during their lifetime. When their friends were supportive, they were happier.

If your friends are in a bad mood, you will be too

If your friends are in a bad mood, do you feel like you are too? There is scientific evidence to suggest that a bad mood can spread via social networks. Meaning that if you’re having a bad day and talk about it to others, they will too!

Interestingly and in seeming contradiction, depression does not. So, while your bad day may be making everyone feel a little bluer, it’s not so severe that it will have an impact on their mental well-being.

Taking the time to make your friends happy could not only help their ongoing well-being, but yours too. This could be anything from enjoying an activity together to a simple hug.

Loneliness can accelerate cognitive decline in older adults

Research has found a link between loneliness and cognitive decline. It found that loneliness accelerates cognitive decline in older adults. The findings build on previous research which suggests that late-life depression is connected to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Loneliness in older adults can be caused by a number of factors, such as moving away or close friends passing.

With this in mind, it’s important that we keep in touch with loved ones, particularly our older friends and relatives. If you’re looking for a way to make a difference in your local community, think about volunteering for a charity or care home that provides a befriending service.

Cooking someone a roast, popping round for a cup of tea or just having a natter could go someway to improving their health and well-being.

At Hallmark Care Homes, our befriending volunteers enrich the lives of our residents. We welcome befriending volunteers across our English and Welsh homes.

If you’d like to make a difference to someone’s life, find out more about our volunteering opportunities: https://www.hallmarkcarehomes.co.uk/careers/volunteer

Loneliness is a cross-generational problem

Many of us prioritise seeing our elderly relative over the holidays, however new research has revealed that millennials struggle just as much with loneliness in the holidays as their grandparents.

It’s not just the isolation they struggle with. Stress and anxiety is heightened amongst young people during what is traditionally the happiest time of year.

Mental health charity, Mind, found that 1 in 10 people between the ages of 25 and 34 said that they have no one to spend the holidays with.

This is more than the older generation, with 1 in 20 reporting the same issue. It’s important to remember that loneliness is an issue for all ages and that we should keep our loved one’s close, not only at Christmas, but all year round.

To wrap up

Loneliness and isolation is a problem that touches every generation. The impact of creating and maintaining strong friendships is greater than we think.

Friendship has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, lengthen your lifespan and decrease your chances of developing dementia.

By being kind to one another, compassionate and creating strong bonds we can all be happier, healthier and more productive in our everyday lives.

Click here to find your nearest Hallmark care home.