Strong friendships comes with so many benefits; companionship, attention, and affection to name a few. Friends are there to talk, listen, to spend time with you and help you when you need it, but are there actual health benefits that emerge from having friends? I thought this was an interesting question to research after hearing my cousin talk about how she feels physically better when she is hanging out with her friends, now granted she is only nine years old, but it did get me thinking…could she be on to something? Could something that seems strictly emotional affect people physically?
According to a study conducted by the Centre for Studies on Human Stress (CSHS), having friends has a positive effect on young people when they are faced with a stressful or negative event. The study focused on kids in 5th and 6th grade and measured their stress levels by looking at a hormone called cortisol. The study showed that when the students with friends were faced with a negative event, there was no increase in their cortisol levels. The results show the positive support that friends can give are able to effect physical factors. I think the study is a good starting point, and could open the door to more intricacies. Maybe study the different forms of support techniques offered by each friend to see what is the best technique to combat stressful and traumatic events? Is it more personality based or is one approach better than another? Other studies show that having friends can actually improve your life span by an extensive amount. According to an observational study of over 300,000 people for 7.5 years, the participants with strong social relationships through social media and personal friendships had increased their chances of survival over the given time period by almost 50 percent. That percentage is equivalent to people that quit smoking AND nearly twice as beneficial as exercising.
Now the question that arises is, how do having friends bring abut these health benefits? Data shows that friends help people from doing things that are bad for their physical well being like smoking or self harming in other ways. Friends have also been proven to ward off depression, boost happiness, and provide support through trying times. Although this data is very reassuring to someone like me that strives off of making new connections and friends, is important to understand that testing data like this is very difficult. How does one measure happiness and well being? Could these people in these percentages just be in great physical shape? The answer to that is yes, and there could be a random correlation with this data, but like the experiment in class we read about, the perceived benefits greatly outweigh the risks. So go hang out with your friends and have a good time, extend your life a little bit why don’t you?