The Fountain of Youth Can Be Found in Friendships: The Health Benefits of Staying Social
September 1, 2023
Spending time with friends isn’t just great fun - it turns out there are profound health benefits for your mind and body as well.
Smaller social circles and losing friends is common as we get older, but it turns out that making the effort to stay social reaps important benefits. Connecting with others and forging meaningful relationships increases mental health and well-being, alleviates loneliness, boosts motivation, and provides stimulation.
- Friends Improve Our Physical Health
Studies have found that older people with social support and who engage in social activities are more likely to live longer and are at lower risk of long-term health problems such as obesity, high-blood pressure, and heart disease.
Social isolation is linked to depression, dementia, disability, falls, and other negative health impacts.
One study found that isolation’s impact on premature death risk was the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
It’s never too late to make new friends. After all, the more life experience you have, the more chance there is that you have many things in common with others!
- Social Connection Boosts Cognitive Health and Reduces Stress
Friends encourage us to have fun, try new things, and learn. These things decrease stress and improve cognitive function. Plus, spending quality time with others exposes us to new information, perspectives, and interests.
Friendships and being part of different social groups give us a sense of belonging and purpose, both of which are important components to boost our self-esteem.
One study found that people over the age of 60 who only saw one or two friends every few months were 12% more likely to develop dementia than those who visited friends almost daily.
Plus, friends offer caring support and assistance in ways that families sometimes are unable to. For many older Americans, friendships are more reliable for health and happiness than family relationships, which can frequently be sources of tension and obligation.
- Support for Good Choices – And Through Tough Times
While we are each responsible for our own lifestyle choices, having friends who are good influences can encourage us to do the same. Spending time with people who take care of their health and stay socially connected can motivate us to make similar choices. Plus, community and companionship can be especially helpful for healthy aging after a difficult hardship, divorce, or the death of a loved one. In-person and online support from friends has significant benefits for improved quality of life for bereaved people.
If you’re looking for new friendships, consider reaching out to neighbors and acquaintances and going for a coffee or a walk together. Signing up to take a class is also a great way to meet like-minded people. Another great way is through your association. Your association provides many opportunities to rub elbows with peers, including association meetings, volunteering opportunities, group events, and travel. There’s no reason to go it alone! Visit your association’s website to learn about membership and social options and enjoy being among friends.
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