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How The Number Of Friends You Have Can Affect Your Health

How The Number Of Friends You Have Can Affect Your Health

The effects that friendships have on psychological and physical health have been well documented across a broad body of research. Benefits of having friends include (among others):

  1. Lower stress
  2. Lower depression
  3. Lower anxiety
  4. Lower blood pressure
  5. Lower mortality rates
  6. Improved behavioral pathways (such as getting more sleep)
  7. Sharper mind

A meta-analysis done of 148 mortality studies even found that a lack of social relationships is comparable to well know health risks such as cigarette smoking and obesity, where weak social ties could be comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having more than 6 alcoholic drinks.

One factor that has received less attention, though, is the number of friends we have and the effects this may have on our health. What effect does the size of your friendship circle have on your health? Is it positive or negative? Is there a magic number of friends one needs to be happy?

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It seems there are two sides to the coin. The number of friends you have can impact your health both positively and negatively. It all depends on other elements involved in those friendships.

It Depends on the Person

First, it is important to recognize that there is no magic number of friends required for improved health. This will vary from person to person.

According to Alicia Arbaje, M.D., M.P.H:

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It’s all about whether you have people in your life who meet your need for emotional, spiritual and other kinds of support.

Introverts may be content with far fewer friends than extroverts, with no negative effect on their health at all. Extroverts, in contrast, may experience negative health effects such as loneliness if their friendship circles are not wide enough.

It Depends on the Strength of the Connection

Second, the strength of the connections we form is crucial, as Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Ph.D, highlights:

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People who have more, or more complex, social resources vs. people who have less, have higher rates of survival.

It’s not just about having more friends. It’s about the complexity of the social resources. Here the “quality over quantity” argument holds true. Someone who has three close friends may be just as happy, if not happier, than someone with a larger social circle, solely because of the depth or the complexity of those three relationships.

If anything, having more friends could lead to negative effects such as alcohol addiction and drug abuse due to peer pressure.

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In addition, a larger social circle can also lead to role strain, which is a sense of frustration that one feels over having too many social obligations (placing pressure on your time and energy) and the inability to fulfill the social role of a friend. This inability can cause frustration and stress, and as a result can have an adverse effect on your health such as fatigue or even ulcers.

Research has also found that people were a lot happier in life if they were satisfied with the friends they had, regardless of the number of friends they had.

Finding a Balance

While research clearly points to the positive effects of friendships for our general well being, emotionally and physically, the number of friends we have can have both a positive and negative effect on our health.

It all depends on certain factors such as the individual and their specific needs as well as the depth of the connection. Having too many friends, for example, can very often be bad for your health. This could lead to alcohol or drug abuse (as a result of peer pressure) and stress and frustration (as a result of role strain). The important thing is to find a balance and see what works in your life.

Featured photo credit: Andres Rodriguez via flickr.com

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Last Updated on January 18, 2019

7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

Some people will have a rain cloud hanging over them, no matter what the weather is outside. Their negative attitude is toxic to your own moods, and you probably feel like there is little you can do about it.

But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

If you want to effectively deal with negative people and be a champion of positivity, then your best route is to take definite action through some of the steps below.

1. Limit the time you spend with them.

First, let’s get this out of the way. You can be more positive than a cartoon sponge, but even your enthusiasm has a chance of being afflicted by the constant negativity of a friend.

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In fact, negativity has been proven to damage your health physically, making you vulnerable to high levels of stress and even cardiac disease. There’s no reason to get hurt because of someone else’s bad mood.

Though this may be a little tricky depending on your situation, working to spend slightly less time around negative people will keep your own spirits from slipping as well.

2. Speak up for yourself.

Don’t just absorb the comments that you are being bombarded with, especially if they are about you. It’s wise to be quick to listen and slow to speak, but being too quiet can give the person the impression that you are accepting what’s being said.

3. Don’t pretend that their behavior is “OK.”

This is an easy trap to fall into. Point out to the person that their constant negativity isn’t a good thing. We don’t want to do this because it’s far easier to let someone sit in their woes, and we’d rather just stay out of it.

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But if you want the best for this person, avoid giving the false impression that their negativity is normal.

4. Don’t make their problems your problems.

Though I consider empathy a gift, it can be a dangerous thing. When we hear the complaints of a friend or family member, we typically start to take on their burdens with them.

This is a bad habit to get into, especially if this is a person who is almost exclusively negative. These types of people are prone to embellishing and altering a story in order to gain sympathy.

Why else would they be sharing this with you?

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5. Change the subject.

When you suspect that a conversation is starting to take a turn for the negative, be a champion of positivity by changing the subject. Of course, you have to do this without ignoring what the other person said.

Acknowledge their comment, but move the conversation forward before the euphoric pleasure gained from complaining takes hold of either of you.

6. Talk about solutions, not problems.

Sometimes, changing the subject isn’t an option if you want to deal with negative people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be positive.

I know that when someone begins dumping complaints on me, I have a hard time knowing exactly what to say. The key is to measure your responses as solution-based.

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You can do this by asking questions like, “Well, how could this be resolved?” or, “How do you think they feel about it?”

Use discernment to find an appropriate response that will help your friend manage their perspectives.

7. Leave them behind.

Sadly, there are times when we have to move on without these friends, especially if you have exhausted your best efforts toward building a positive relationship.

If this person is a family member, you can still have a functioning relationship with them, of course, but you may still have to limit the influence they have over your wellbeing.

That being said, what are some steps you’ve taken to deal with negative people? Let us know in the comments.

You may also want to read: How to Stop the Negative Spin of Thoughts, Emotions and Actions.

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