Friends, Health, and Longevity: Live Longer with a Little Help from Your Friends?

senior friends hiking because friendships lead to longevityPeople are naturally social animals. We understand this. Taking a look at our types through an evolutionary lens, we tend to speak about our requirement for social connection as it associates with survival. Our forefathers required to work in groups to hunt, gather water and fire wood, develop shelters, rear young, keep watch for predators, and all the other company of surviving. While that’s unquestionably real, our requirement for association runs much deeper than those useful issues. Our health and wellness rather actually depend upon having strong social bonds with others. 

Even when our survival is ensured thanks to safe real estate, simple access to tidy water and numerous food, healthcare, and monetary security, lonesome or socially separated people are most likely to pass away earlier. On the other hand, a robust social assistance network is associated with much better physical and psychological health results and longer lives. 

Buddies, it ends up, have an extensive effect on health and durability. Naturally, it’s not practically the variety of years we have however how we invest them, and buddies likewise make our lives more pleasurable in numerous methods.

Are Buddies a Secret to Durability and Healthspan?

There’s no doubt that social combination and social assistance are associated with higher health and durability, while the opposite, social seclusion and solitude, substantially increase death threat. In a 2010 meta-analysis covering 148 research studies and 308,849 individuals, the scientists concluded that people with strong social ties were half most likely to endure compared to those with weak socials media. When the scientists looked just at research studies with more extensive measurements of social connectedness, that number leapt to 90 percent. Individuals who reported being less lonesome likewise taken pleasure in a 47 percent survival benefit.

Your social media network consists of partners, kids, extended household, next-door neighbors, colleagues, clergy, even your preferred barista or curator, however pals are unique. Relationships are voluntary (unlike household), shared (unlike kids or your manager, with whom equality and reciprocity are not anticipated), and, for buddies a minimum of, intimate (unlike colleagues or next-door neighbors, most likely). 

Great relationships are constructed on preference and shared regard, and the very best pals draw out the very best in you. It’s apparent how pals assist you live much better, however how might they assist you live longer?

Buddies Might Motivate Healthy Practices

Much of the research study on social impact and healthy (or unhealthy) habits concentrates on teenagers and how peers impact things like diet plan and workout options, however it’s not simply teenagers who are affected by their pals. Grownups are most likely to be physically active when they have encouraging pals, pals who exercise themselves,, and pals who function as exercise pals. Robust and encouraging relationships assist individuals keep their sobriety. People who feel more socially supported might discover it much easier to handle persistent health problems like type 2 diabetes.

It’s not simply that pals function as good example or responsibility partners, making certain we adhere to our resolutions, although they do. Nor do pals simply offer useful assistance (getting a prescription, viewing your kids so you can go to the fitness center) and psychological assistance, although they do those things, too. Buddies can likewise assist improve your sense of self-respect and self-confidence, assisting you think that you are worthy of to look after yourself. 

Relationships Keep Solitude at Bay

Solitude and social seclusion are significant threat elements for all way of persistent illness and death. In some research studies, bad social ties are much more damaging than things like smoking cigarettes, drinking, and bad metabolic health. Lots of professionals think that solitude and social seclusion need to be thought about public health problems which we need to buy public law efforts developed to increase social assistance for individuals of any ages. 

Research study recommends that relationships are especially proficient at warding off solitude. For older folks (50+), relationships provide much better defense versus solitude than relationships with adult kids or other member of the family. In spite of the stereotype, older individuals really aren’t lonelier total. Solitude throughout the life-span is u-shaped, with middle-aged folks reporting one of the most. That indicates that solitude tends to decline as we age, compared to when we are bogged down in the working-and-parenting-teens years. (By the method, the very same holds true for joy. Information from around the globe highly recommends that joy is least expensive around age 50, and it increases from there.)

Nevertheless, research studies of older grownups reveal that solitude is moderated by health. As health and movement decrease, so does social involvement. It ends up being more difficult to go out and see your pals, and some folks might not wish to problem their pals with their illness. This develops an unfavorable feedback loop where people progressively withdraw from their socials media, causing even worse health and increased death. On the other hand, if you have pals who motivate you to remain healthy and active for as long as possible, you develop a favorable feedback loop that improves durability. So keep moving. 

Buddies Assist You Buffer Tension

One theory of why we developed to have pals is that intimate relationships promote favorable feelings and cooperation, which improves survival, while close relationships offer material assistance, social interaction, and defense of shared interest. Simply put, pals exist to make life much better, more enjoyable, and much easier. 

This proves out, doesn’t it? Consider the last time you chuckled truly difficult with somebody. Possibilities are you were with a buddy. Who would you employ the middle of the night in an emergency situation? Most likely not your manager. It would be your partner or that a person pal who you understand would come no concerns asked. Understanding somebody has your back—once again, both virtually and mentally—is a big weight off your shoulders. 

The ramifications go method beyond “it feels good to have friends in your life.” There’s growing proof that relationships can really help in reducing oxidative tension.

Wait, so you’re stating pals are anti-inflammatory?

Put it in the classification of weird however real. In reality, researchers think this is most likely a main system by which relationships promote health and durability. We know that chronic stress causes inflammation, and chronic inflammation leads to or exacerbates pretty much every health problem you can think of. People who experience more positive emotions typically have lower inflammation, while negative emotions are associated with higher inflammation. Heaps of evidence support the notion that people who have better social relationships and more social support also have lower inflammation.

So it just makes sense that friends, who offer social support, positive emotional experiences, and stress relief, would help us be healthier and live longer. However, what we get from friends may be less important than what we give. In a longitudinal study of more than 1,500 people in their sixties or older, mortality was significantly lower among people who said they were able to offer support to their friends, relatives, and neighbors. In fact, the amount of help they received from their social network didn’t impact mortality at all once the researchers took into account the effect of the help they gave to others. 

The act of nurturing our friendships affects us on a physiological level, reducing stress and even, yes, inflammation. In one recent study, positive social relationships were associated with lower IL-6, an inflammatory marker, but only for women who said they were able to offer support to their friends and family (results weren’t significant for men).

If You Want to Be Happier, Make Friends

So says a panel of happiness experts, anyway. Seventeen scholars, researchers, and writers weighed in on the most feasible and effective ways to promote happiness. “Invest in friends and family” topped the list of things individuals can do to increase their personal happiness, while “reduce loneliness” came in at number four on the list of policy suggestions.

Friendships can be a conduit through which you explore your interests, find new passions, and experience personal growth. I’d argue that friends are uniquely situated for that. Family members often have deeply ingrained beliefs about who you already are or who they want you to be. Your partner hopefully helps you grow and experience the good things in life, but you’re most likely also wrapped up in the functional concerns of day-to-day adulting, especially if you’re still working and/or raising kids. The rest of your social network is probably too distant. Friends are where it’s at. 

The best friends also challenge your limiting beliefs and negative self-talk, because they see the best in you and reflect it back, and because they truly want to see you flourish. Everyone needs at least one friend who elevates them, like my “idea friend” Suzanne, so-called because she’s always sending me text messages starting with, “So I had an idea…” (I’m her “yes friend” because I always go along with her ideas, no matter how crazy.) My son asked me the other day, “Mom, does Suzanne push you outside your comfort zone?” “No,” I told him, “Suzanne offers me opportunities to step out of my comfort zone, and I choose to take them.” This is important for me because adventure is one of my strongly held personal values. You may instead value contribution, faith, humor, or community. ??Whatever is important to you, find a friend who helps you live in alignment with your values.

How Many Friends Do You Need?

Happiness, loneliness, and perceived social support are all subjective, so it’s hard to say exactly. Some people may be fulfilled with one or two close friends, while others thrive on having a large and diverse social network. 

There’s some evidence that when you’re younger, a larger social network predicts better health outcomes. Even among adults, subjective well-being correlates with the number of friends you have. One study even concluded that by doubling the size of your friend group, you increase well-being as much as if you earned 50 percent more money. 

There’s a limit on how many friends we can realistically manage, though. Scholars, including Robin Dunbar of Dunbar’s number fame, conjecture that humans can maintain very intimate relationships with about five people and close relationships with an additional 12 to 15 people. They state:

In terms of size, the sympathy group (typically 12–15 members)… may represent the group of reliable friends on whom one can depend for a variety of exchange relationships (e.g., friendship in the social sense, protection against harassment, minimizing social stress, distributed childcare, etc.). In contrast, the innermost layer of about 5, the support clique, seems to represent the set of closest intimates, typically immediate family members and best friends, who are most likely to provide a mutual environment for emotional and instrumental (e.g., financial) support.”

That said, the quality of your relationships probably matters more than the absolute number. Especially as we age, friendships that cause stress and strain actually undermine health.

Are Online Friendships Just as Good as IRL?

Ah, the 100,000 dollar question. Twenty years ago, I was a grad student studying whether people could form meaningful connections online. This was cutting-edge research at the time. Social networking was relatively new, and online relationships were still something of a novelty. In the years since, it has become abundantly clear that yes, we can form friendships online. However, even two decades later, the debate about whether those friendships are as “real” as IRL friendships rages on. In the aforementioned study, where doubling your friend network was as good as money, that was only for real-world friendships. Having a larger online circle didn’t help. If anything, it was associated with somewhat poorer subjective well-being. 

Don’t disinvest from your online friendships just yet, though. We simply don’t know how online friendships affect health (especially in old age) and durability. Moreover, there may well be generational differences between today’s older folks, who didn’t grow up using the Internet to build and maintain relationships, and Gen Z’ers for whom online friendships have always been a way of life.  

What to Do if You Want to Live Longer

Make friends with happy people.

Happiness spreads among friends, even more than within families, and happier people tend to live longer on average. Surround yourself with happy people, and you’ll catch the happiness bug, too. 

Choose friends who challenge you.

I’m not sure this one is entirely science-backed, but it just makes sense to choose friends who don’t allow you to stagnate and succumb to the forces of entropy. Surround yourself with people who keep you on your toes with stimulating conversation and new ideas, experiences, and perspectives. Ideally, have at least one friend who helps you stay active.

Find ways to be there for your friends.

Take opportunities to offer social support, whether it’s a sympathetic ear, a shoulder to cry on, helping with errands, or whatever you know will take some tension off your friends’ plates. 

Let your friends be there for you.

Open yourself up to receiving social support, as well. Remember that your friends benefit from helping you, so accepting their kindness helps them, too.

Build a social network that suits your needs.

In other words, make as many friends as it takes for you to feel not-lonely. Take the time to invest in a few close friendships, and pad your network with other friends and friendly acquaintances based on what makes you feel most satisfied and supported.

But focus on quality over quantity.

For all the benefits that friendships can deliver, poor quality relationships, such as those characterized by competition or toxic behaviors, can lead to poorer health outcomes.

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About the Author

Lindsay Taylor, Ph.D., is a senior writer and community manager for Primal Nutrition, a certified Primal Health Coach, and the co-author of three keto cookbooks.

As a writer for Mark’s Daily Apple and the leader of the thriving Keto Reset and Primal Endurance communities, Lindsay’s job is to help individuals learn the whats, whys, and hows of leading a health-focused life. Before joining the Primal team, she earned her master’s and Ph.D. in Social and Personality Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, where she likewise worked as a scientist and trainer.

Lindsay lives in Northern California with her partner and 2 sports-obsessed children. In her downtime, she takes pleasure in ultra running, triathlon, outdoor camping, and video game nights. Follow along on Instagram @theusefuldish as Lindsay tries to manage work, household, and endurance training, all while keeping a healthy balance and, many of all, having a good time in life. For more details, check out lindsaytaylor.co.

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Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.