Good Friends Can Keep You Healthy
Those of us who are lucky enough to have close friends dont need studies to convince us how important our buddies are to our mental health. But there is also plenty of scientific evidence proving that friendships not only enhance our sense of happiness and overall feelings of wellbeing, but also improve our physical health and might even contribute to our longevity.
An Australian study conducted by the Centre for Aging at Flinders University followed nearly 1,500 older people for 10 years. It found that those who had a large network of friends outlived by 22 percent those with the fewest friends.
The authors of the study suspect that good friends discourage unhealthy habits such as smoking and heavy drinking. And the companionship provided by friends may ward off depression, boost self-esteem, and provide support. As you might have noticed in your own life, when we age, we become more selective in our choice of friends; so we spend more time with people we truly like. Thus, our friendships tend to be less stressful than they might have been when we were younger.
Another study, reported in the journal Cancer, followed 61 women with advanced ovarian cancer. Those with ample social support had much lower levels of a protein linked to more aggressive types of cancer. Lower levels of the protein, known as interleukin 6, or IL-6, also boosted the effectiveness of chemotherapy. Women with weak social support had levels of IL-6 that were 70 percent higher in general, and two-and-a-half times higher in the area around the tumor.