Friendship: An Important Element of a Healthy Life

The Beatles knew it well when they sang “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

Turns out having your own tribe might be better for you in terms of your health, rather than just accruing likes on your latest Instagram post.

Adolescent times are tough: You’re getting to know yourself, facing the impending (and inevitable) “awkward” stage of pre-teendom, and likely pushing back against your parents—all the while taking on school, a social life, and extracurriculars. It always helps to face these trying times with a confidant, someone to lean on, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to bend, and, at times, a “partner in crime.” What you might not know is that having a friend by your side can also help your health. The New York Times published an article on the topic, stating that: “Having friends is good for your physical health, and the benefits appear to start early in life, according to a new study.”

The study the NYT is referring to was conducted by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, where the effects of social relationships and interactions on health were analyzed and researched. According to the study, an: “Analyses of multiple dimensions of social relationships within multiple samples across the life course produced consistent and robust associations with health.”

In short: Social interactions and forming relationships are good for you, and your health, and have lasting benefits. The positive effects of the relationships formed in adolescence and adulthood carry throughout your life and into old age.

When you think about it, it seems the evidence was there all along. When you’re anxious for a test, nervous for a job interview, or are having an especially trying day at work—what do you most often do? Text a classmate, commiserate with peers, or reach out to friends to help you through the stressful time. You call or text, get comforted, gain perspective, and then typically feel better.

According to an article from Time, “Recipe for Longevity: No Smoking, Lots of Friends”: “Recent lab studies have shown that, in a stressful situation, blood pressure and heart rate will increase less when people are accompanied by a person who is close to them.” So your “phone a friend” reaction, or meeting up with a buddy to reflect on a tough day, is actually benefiting you on a higher level.

Though having “me time” is important for your health, social isolation can be a lonely, and even dangerous, territory. But don’t just sit behind a screen and write to people via social media. According to an article in Slate: “A [sic] study of Facebook users found that the amount of time you spend on the social network is inversely related to how happy you feel throughout the day.” Strive for balance.

It’s never too early or too late in life to go out in search of friendship. So find new ways to expand your social circle by attending events in your city, becoming part of an organization, or by searching for volunteer opportunities. Go to a festival celebrating something you love or meet friends in your next yoga class. Whether you join a club or join a gym—get out and get movin’ and schmoozin’.

Maggie Peikon bio2Maggie is a New York native, writer, and sufferer of insatiable wanderlust. An avid endorphin seeker she has a constant need to be moving, seeking adventure in all she does. She is a lover of travel, daydreaming, fitness, thunderstorms, and her dog, Finley. Despite the fact that she has to take medication daily due to a thyroidectomy, Maggie still believes that laughter will always be the best medicine. Follow her musings on Instagram and Twitter.