Friends and family and the social connections that we make with them are essential for our health. I think most of us have been impacted during our lives, especially during the pandemic lockdowns when we couldn’t visit our friends and family in person.
So why are they important?
Good friendships can decrease your risk of diabetes, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index (being overweight)
Mental / emotional health:
Having a supportive network gives a greater sense of meaning in life and a stronger sense of purpose. Happiness is contagious and can help towards having a ‘healthy mood’. This lowers the chances of developing depression. If you are depressed or are feeling lonely, this has been linked with decreased life expectancy. Older adults with good social networks have better memory, better cognitive functions and a lower allostatic load (the wear and tear on the body and brain from being stressed).
Social connections help relieve levels of stress, which can harm the heart’s arteries, gut function, insulin regulation and the immune system.
Hanging out with friends during a stressful situation may reduce the amount of cortisol, a hormone that is related when the body is under stress.
Having friends or family to talk to, effectively using them as a stress buffer, means that you are less likely to seek negative coping mechanisms such as drinking alcohol, smoking or taking drugs.
Having good friends and family also:
- Helps create healthy habits and behaviour and point out if they see unhealthy ones
- Helps set and maintain goals
- Provides motivation and support
- Challenges us, such as to try a new activity, food, book, music.
- Helps with traumas such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one.
Here are some links to the research:
This article was written by Karen Robinson, our Clinical Director.