Friends: what on earth would we do without them? Someone once said, you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose you family, (more’s the pity for some!)
We choose our friends for many reasons. To play with, laugh with, go through the bad times with, enjoy the good times with. Friends become our chosen family, sometimes becoming even closer than the family we have. And a new study has shown that actually, we need friends for more than life’s ups and downs – we need friends to survive.
According to the study which was published in the journal Psychology and Ageing, those with fewer friends suffer from more than just a lack of good company and a social life. In fact, the study revealed they are at greater risk of an early death than those who binge drink or suffer from obesity.
According to the lead researcher, Cheryl Carmichael from University of Rochester, “having few social connections is equivalent to tobacco use, and it’s higher than for those who drink excessive amounts of alcohol, or who suffer from obesity.”
The fascinating 30-year study looked at the lifestyles of 222 participants of the Rochester-Interaction Record (RIR) study which began in the 1970s.
The participants were asked to track their daily social interactions in diaries, including details of encounters with their friends lasting 10 minutes or more. They then had to rate these experiences according to the quality they received from it – based on how intimate, pleasant, and satisfying each exchange was.
They were contacted ten years later, in the 1980s, to assess how their social interactions had changed and when Cheryl contacted them again this year, most of them in their fifties, 133 of the original 222 responded.
They were asked to complete an online survey which posed questions about the quality of their social lives, emotional well-being and relationships now they were in their fifties. They were asked whether they suffer from loneliness or depression.
The outcome was that those who had more friends and frequent social interactions in their twenties were more likely to benefit in later life.
Cheryl says the result is simple: friends help us to build a tool box for life which helps us to deal with whatever life throws at us at the same time allowing us to work out who we really are.
“It’s often around this age that we meet people from diverse backgrounds, with opinions and values that are different from our own, and we learn how to best manage those differences.”
We knew there was a reason we all have perfect livers and kidneys despite our party lifestyles! We’re propping each other up! Long Live Our Friends!
photo credit: writer’s own