We should never take our friends for granted. Besides being a shoulder to cry on and someone to laugh and enjoy good times with, our friends can play a major role in our health and well-being. How? Consider the following:
Researchers at Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina looked at 148 studies on the effect of social isolation on mortality and found that being lonely could impact our health after retirement, even more so than smoking. Their analysis found that people with strong social relationships have a 50 per cent greater chance of survival compared to those with weak or few social relationships.
Based on a different study, it seems our friends' waistlines can influence our health too, in that our friends' being overweight can affect our own weight. For example, you may spend more time socializing with them in ways that pack on the pounds, such as eating out or taking part in sedentary activities rather than exercising or being active in other ways. Or the effect may manifest in more subtle, subliminal ways; hanging around with a heavier friend may cause you to come to believe that this size and weight is normal and acceptable, and you may adopt habits that cause you to become the same size and weight.
Friends help us spread good moods. One study that used the database from the Framingham Heart Study showed that our social networks help us a spread happiness. If you're happy, the likelihood of your spouse's happiness increasing is 8 per cent. If a sibling is happy, the likelihood of your happiness rising is 14 per cent. Even better, this spreading of happiness seems to reach as far as three degrees of separation.
Consider how motivating it is to have a friend to work out with. A buddy system can be a major factor in your exercising regularly. If you signed up for a boot camp and don't feel like going, you can easily skip it. But if your friend's in the same boot camp, you're likely to feel like you have to show up. Working out with a friend can make you more committed to your exercise regimen.
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