Back in grade school, making new friends seemed so easy. All you needed was a few shared hobbies and values, and maybe a couple laughs on the playground, and an unbreakable bond would be forged. Friendship is no less important later in life; all manner of difficult experiences and awkward changes are easier to bear with a good friend. In fact, a nationwide study revealed that 94% of adolescents see their friends almost every day, while 91% of adults over 65 do the same. But aside from the obvious, let’s take a look at the physical and emotional benefits of friendship.
Benefits of Friendship
Spending time with friends is deeply gratifying for most people, and it carries some surprising side effects: not only does it improve your mood and self-esteem, it also reduces stress and lowers your risk for terminal illness! Maintaining friendships can be hard during those middle years, when work and family often take higher priority – but for a longer, happier, more fulfilling life, it’s certainly worth the effort.
Friendship is an excellent prescription for all kinds of physical and emotional pain. The Mayo Clinic reports that friendship can “increase your sense of belonging and purpose, boost your happiness, reduce stress, improve your self-worth, [and] help you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one.1” It’s no surprise, then, that most people greatly value their friends, and often turn to them first in times of crisis, even before spouses or relatives.
The emotional health perks we receive from our friends can also impact our physical health. According to Harvard Health Publications, “social connections help relieve harmful levels of stress, which can harm the heart’s arteries, gut function, insulin regulation, and the immune system”; friends can also strengthen our immune systems and motivate us to recover from a debilitating injury. Simply put, “good friends are good for your health.”
What Makes a “Friend”?
What do most people look for in a friend? Typically, the answer is “themselves.” Our closest friends tend to have many interests and experiences in common with us. Additionally, most people choose friends of the same age, sex, and marital status. North Carolina State University explains that “some people maintain friendships with the opposite sex, but differing interests and overtones of ...