“If you’re ever in a jam, here I am
If you’re ever in a mess, S-O-S
If you ever feel so happy, you land in jail… I’m your bail.
It’s friendship, friendship, just a perfect blendship.
When other friendships have been forgot,
Ours will still be hot.
Lah-dle-ah-dle-ah-dle dig, dig, dig.”

Whenever I think of friendship I think of that Kay Kyser song. It’s happy-making—even just like the thought of friendship itself. I like to imagine a good friend who laughs at your jokes, tells you when there’s spinach in your teeth and who wants the best for you.

“One loyal friend is worth ten-thousand relatives.”

—Euripides

We all know that friendship can make the carnival that is life way more enjoyable. I mean, who wants to go to a carnival alone anyway? Friends make the party worthwhile. Without friends, this party’s a bust. But did you also know that, in addition to the good times and memory making, having friends can also improve your health? Yep. There’s even research to back it up!

What the Experts Discovered

In a recent finding, The National Academy of Sciences states that if we isolate ourselves and remain antisocial we could be harming ourselves.

“Social isolation increased the risk of inflammation by the same magnitude as physical inactivity in adolescence, and the effect of social isolation on hypertension exceeded that of clinical risk factors such as diabetes in old age.”

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, did a study based on previous research, proving that seniors have a longer lifespan if they have more social connections.

According to the Department of Sociology, University of North Carolina, “The effect of social isolation on hypertension risk exceeded the effect of diabetes, a well known risk factor for hypertension at older ages. The associations of social integration with overall obesity are significant in both early and late life and higher social support was associated with lower odds of abdominal and overall obesity in young to mid adulthood.”

Size Matters

A bunch of folks got together to study the impact of friendship at different stages of our lives. The data came from The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) to capture adolescence and young adulthood, the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS) for middle adulthood, and both the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP) for late adulthood. As it turns out, we need different things, at different stages.

Kathleen Mullan Harris, James Haar Distinguished Professor at UNC-Chapel Hill found that in early and late adulthood, size matters. Both in the early stages of life and the later, it’s important to have a large social network. But when it comes to that area in the middle, “middle adulthood,” it’s not so much about quantity, it’s more about quality. In regards to mid-life, Science Daily notes, “it’s not the number of social connections that matter, but what those connections provide in terms of social support or strain.”

Science also tells us that people who isolate, have an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and a compromised immune response to viral infections.

Maybe now would be a good time to check out some Meetups, enroll in an art class, make new friends. Who knows? Maybe you’ll click with someone new and that new friend will be with you through thick and thin. It might also be a good time to call up that old pal and plan that lunch. You could be mutual lifesavers.

“There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.”

—Linda Grayson

Set a Goal For Yourself

Read full content