Friendship is for a longer & healthier life
If there were a product practically guaranteed to lengthen your life, improve your memory, and ward off disease. We think we all would raise our hand and be interested in this magical cure. And the answer to this is so easy: Friendship
Friendship does exactly that! And it doesn’t cost a penny. Everyone knows that it feels good to have a close-knit circle. But a growing body of research links social connection with overall well-being.
Friendship can help you live longer
In Okinawa, Japan, home to one of the world’s largest centenarian populations, each child traditionally joins a moai. A moai is a tightly knit handful of people who become a second family. The moai grows together, meeting regularly and providing companionship from childhood until death. They help its members feel respected, valued, and loved well into old age. Watch the recent show on BBC iPlayer with Sue Perkins in Japan . During her time in Japan, she meets a group of ladies in their 80s still diving for mussels in the cold waters of Japan. And the answers to their longevity: Friendship.
This phenomenon is similar to findings of the Harvard longevity study, ongoing since 1938. “It followed a group of young men for more than 70 years,” says Omri Gillath, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, who studies attachment styles within relationships. “It showed that the most important thing we have in our lives is our close relationships.” Among other things, the study found that the 50-year-olds who were most content with their relationships went on to be the healthiest at age 80.
A number of studies shows that strong social connections are a brain’s best friend. It provides an immediate mood boost triggering long-lasting happiness . Thus, today’s lunch dates provides long-lasting benefits: A 2010 study found that high-quality friendships not only protect against dementia, they also do so for up to 15 years. Dr Kalpa Kharicha, head of innovation, policy and research for the Campaign to End Loneliness, said: “We need more awareness of the benefits that social wellbeing and connectedness can have to tackle social isolation, loneliness and reduce dementia risk.”
What’s more, a tight social circle could even trick your brain into thinking it’s younger. A 2017 study sought to understand why a subset of super-ageing octogenarians had the memory recall of people 15 to 30 years younger. Having an overall positive attitude helped, but only one variable made a difference across age, race, gender, and education: high-quality social relationships. Super-Agers reported having greater levels of warm, close relationships than their peers — and had younger-acting brains, too. (Thanks for the memories, indeed.)
Think fewer, but closer
Of course, maintaining friendships takes time and effort. But the greater the quality of a relationship, the greater its benefits. It is not about having your phone full of numbers, followers on social media – it comes down to having friends who will be there for you. Friends that respect, support you and are sensitive.
Take it offline
And although plenty of us have hundreds, even thousands, of social-media “friends,” Dr. Gillath adds that digital interactions don’t provide the same emotional glue as real-life ones do. For instance, opening up to a friend in person typically increases intimacy. But his research has fo