Thursday,25 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1438, (11 - 17 April 2019)
Thursday,25 April, 2019
Issue 1438, (11 - 17 April 2019)

Ahram Weekly

The benefits of friends

The benefits of friends
The benefits of friends

Friends play a significant role in enriching lives and promoting health, and good female friends can make life easier and happier. They celebrate you when you’re happy and boost you when you’re sad. Strong and supportive relationships are as important for your health as diet and exercise, and their influence is greater than many may realise. Scientists are constantly uncovering the impacts of solid friendships on health and well-being. 

Studies show that a strong friendship comes with a number of physical, emotional and mental-health benefits. Spending time with good female friends can lower blood pressure, boost happiness and reduce stress, avert loneliness, improve self-confidence and self-worth, and even prevent breast cancer, among other things. Adults with strong social-support networks have a reduced risk of an unhealthy body mass index (BMI). Moreover, studies have found that older adults with a rich social life are likely to live longer than their peers with fewer connections.

Here are some ways best female friends can boost your health:

Reducing stress: Women feel better and deal with stress differently when other women are around. In a series of studies conducted at the University of Virginia in the US, people were faced with the threat of getting an electric shock either while solo or while holding a friend’s hand. Brain scans revealed that in those clinging to a friend, the brain regions that sense danger were significantly less active.

Lowering blood pressure: A study published in the US journal Psychology and Aging has showed a direct correlation between chronic feelings of loneliness and large increases in blood pressure. It also found that the loneliest participants in the study had a 14-point increase in blood pressure compared to the most social ones. Dealing with feelings of loneliness and fostering a sense of connectedness can thus help slow the progression of blood pressure increases. 

Helping with trauma: There’s no doubt that having a hand to hold during the darkest periods of life can be an enormous help. Studies have shown that having a friend around during harsh events such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one can significantly buffer the negativity of the experience and increase self-confidence.

Improving willpower: Surrounding yourself with people who have strong self-control can have a strong effect on your own willpower. 

Managing breast cancer: Friendships or group therapy for cancer patients have been shown to have tangible results on managing the disease. A study of a group of women in Chicago in the US found that the release of the hormone cortisol due to the stress of social isolation assisted in the growth of breast-tumour cells. Loneliness thus literally accelerated their cancer.

Avoiding overspending: People are more likely to take major financial risks when feeling lonely or rejected. Close friendships can keep you on an even keel.

Protecting mood: Friends can have Prozac-like powers. A UK study has revealed that people with depression double their chances of bouncing back if they have friends with healthy moods. Another study has revealed that women who have 10 or more friends to socialise with experience better psychological well-being in midlife than those with fewer.

More enjoyable work-outs: Friends can make fitness fun. A number of studies have found that exercising with a friend can encourage you to work out harder and more frequently through both inspiration and competition. 

Living longer: People who have strong social relationships are less likely to die prematurely. In fact, having good friends is twice as effective as exercise and quitting smoking when it comes to extending lifespans. An Australian study of elderly people over the course of 10 years revealed that those with strong friendships were 22 per cent less likely to die prematurely than those without.

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