Having Good Friends Can Apparently Help You Live Longer
Having good friends is more than just a recipe for a good time. According to research, a strong support group can actually help save your life: A new study in Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society, found that having a good circle of friends can help you live longer.
Researchers at George Mason University analyzed 10 years of data on more than 90,000 postmenopausal women, hoping to study the effect of having friends on cardiovascular disease. Although they found no significant association between social support and cardiovascular disease specifically, they did find a relationship between perceived social support and overall mortality. For women with no history of cardiovascular disease at the start of the study, having a social network was associated with a slightly lower risk of death from any cause.
Perceived social support refers to "whether a person believes they could get emotional support, advice, or just company from others to do fun things with," explains Dr. Nancy Freeborne, lead researcher of the study and adjunct professor in George Mason University's College of Health and Human Services, in a news release. These findings show that providing others with social support is an easy and cost-effective way to manage and affect another person's health, she says: "It's a reminder that sometimes the simplest things—like reaching out to a loved one—can have the most profound impact."
Past research has found a wide variety of health benefits tied to maintaining a solid, close-knit circle of friends: It can lower your blood pressure, protect you from stress and infection, lower your risk of dementia, and even add years to your life. (Having great friends when you're young also makes you more likely to find successful romantic relationships as you get older.)
Sometimes the simplest thing we can do for our health is to reach out and connect. If you have a robust social network, don't forget to put time and energy into those friendships just like you would a romantic relationship. And if you think your life is a bit lacking in that type of closeness, don't worry—it's never too late to make a new friend.
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