Why Friendships Could Save Your Life

Could your relationships—or lack thereof—be harming your health? The answer, according to research, is yes.

Consider this: A lack of strong social relationships is associated with a mortality risk similar to smoking. Over the years, studies have linked loneliness with increased blood pressure, poor sleep quality and an increase in the production of the stress hormone cortisol, to name just a few ill effects.

Friendship seems to have the opposite effect—strong relationships can help boost self-esteem, relieve stress, and alleviate depression. In my latest book 20 Years Younger, I highlight a number of studies that show how friendships increase longevity and improve quality of life for seniors. In fact, one found that people ages 70 and older who have an active social life live 22 percent longer than those who don’t.

Here are three ways to take advantage of relationships’ health-boosting potential:

1. Make new friends. This may have been no big deal when you were a kid, but many adults struggle to form new friendships. It helps to try to meet people who share your interests and hobbies. If you’re into photography, take a night class at a local high school. Passionate about a certain cause? Volunteer at a non-profit in that field. If you venture out of your circle a bit and put yourself out there, you should be able to form new friendships fairly easily.

2. Reconnect with old friends. This has gotten much easier thanks to Facebook. Not into social media? Reach out to old friends via email or phone. It’s extremely rewarding to reestablish a bond with someone who has known you since way back when.

3. Let go of toxic relationships. Not all relationships are good for your health. Use this worksheet to figure out which friends, family members or coworkers may be interfering with your best life. The next step: Try to improve the relationship or learn to let go. (For more info on toxic relationships, be sure to check back here in a few weeks. Angela Taylor will have some great advice.)

Which of the three tips above are you willing to try?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Pat-Goodwin/100002121425355 Pat Goodwin

    I have Bob & the Bestlife website to thank for adding many friends to my life. Through the online community I have met some of the most amazing people and developed some long term precious friendships. My life is so much richer for these friendships! Never when I joined a “diet” website did I think my life would be enriched in this way!

    • Lschauer22

      Ditto what patti said.
      Loosing the weight has just been the icing on the cake. LOL
      My life changed the second I signed up on best life 5 years ago.
      I Do not know what I would do without all my friends I have met here.
      Our daily chats and encouragement makes me a better friend and person.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Pat-Goodwin/100002121425355 Pat Goodwin

    I have Bob & the Bestlife website to thank for adding many friends to my life. Through the online community I have met some of the most amazing people and developed some long term precious friendships. My life is so much richer for these friendships! Never when I joined a “diet” website did I think my life would be enriched in this way!

    • Lschauer22

      Ditto what patti said.
      Loosing the weight has just been the icing on the cake. LOL
      My life changed the second I signed up on best life 5 years ago.
      I Do not know what I would do without all my friends I have met here.
      Our daily chats and encouragement makes me a better friend and person.

  • Francine

    My husband had a massive stroke over 13 years ago at a fairly young age.  All our friends have vanished!  We moved to a condo area a few years ago, and although people say “hi” no one wants to be a friend!  I think it is due to the brain damage my husband has.  It is a VERY lonely life for me!  I have tried to make new friends, but haven’t. 

  • Francine

    My husband had a massive stroke over 13 years ago at a fairly young age.  All our friends have vanished!  We moved to a condo area a few years ago, and although people say “hi” no one wants to be a friend!  I think it is due to the brain damage my husband has.  It is a VERY lonely life for me!  I have tried to make new friends, but haven’t. 

  • Laura Pokas

    Couldn’t agree more that friends can save your life.  Make new friends, but keep the old.  Some are silver.  Some are gold.  

  • Laura Pokas

    Couldn’t agree more that friends can save your life.  Make new friends, but keep the old.  Some are silver.  Some are gold.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1703101903 Julie Thorson Journitz

    I think the hardest thing to do is evaluate the toxicity of relationships especially when, ironically, those relationships might be with people close to you.  I live a double-edged sword.  My husband and I are extremely close and don’t socialize much.  At times, he is not SUPPORTIVE but he’s not toxic.  I think that’s an important distinction. 

    Not socializing much is due to the nature of our lives: long commute to work, his health, and (happily and sadly) we are so fortunate in having married our best friends.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1703101903 Julie Thorson Journitz

    I think the hardest thing to do is evaluate the toxicity of relationships especially when, ironically, those relationships might be with people close to you.  I live a double-edged sword.  My husband and I are extremely close and don’t socialize much.  At times, he is not SUPPORTIVE but he’s not toxic.  I think that’s an important distinction. 

    Not socializing much is due to the nature of our lives: long commute to work, his health, and (happily and sadly) we are so fortunate in having married our best friends.