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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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Nick Darlington

Nick is a Multipotentialite, an entrepreneur, a blogger and a traveler.

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Last Updated on July 15, 2019

41 Beautiful Pictures That Show What True Love Is All About

41 Beautiful Pictures That Show What True Love Is All About

Some things in life are hard to describe, yet we can recognize them when we see them.

Love is one of those things.

True love comes in many different forms, but here are some that many of us know well.

True love means supporting those who can’t support themselves

supportive couple

    A young man comforts his date in Times Square, New York City. Image by mbtrama

    strong hug

      A young man holds his significant other close to him. Image by Brad Fults

      running help

        A young track competitor helps one of her injured opponents over the finish line. Image from ViralNova.com

        feeding kitten

          A soldier in the Korean War takes time to feed a baby kitten. Image from US Naval Insititute

          It’s having the perfect selfie partner

          mom and daughter selfie

            A mother and her daughter take a selfie together. Image by Andrew Fysh

            girlfriends

              Two young girls pose for the camera. Image by Rolands Lakis

              selfies

                A happy couple takes a picture together. Image by Kayla Heineman

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                selfie

                  Two best friends take a selfie together. Image by Jason Wahido

                  dude selfie

                    Friends take a selfie together. Image by Glenn Scofield Williams

                    It’s all the warm fuzzies

                    12748262703_84c008f4e5_z

                      A young man spends time with his dog on a beach. Image by Magdalena Roeseler

                      DSC06952

                        A pet owner hugs his dog while on a day trip in San Francisco. Image by Taro the Shiba Inu

                        It means having a friend to photobomb you

                        photobomb

                          A boy makes a funny face as he poses for a picture with his brother. Image by Michael Bentley

                          old man photobomb

                            A man photobombs his wife while their grandson snaps a picture. Image by Frank

                            family photobomb

                              Family members photobomb their relatives’ Thanksgiving day family photo. Image by Beth Scupham

                              boyfriend photobomb

                                A friend photobombs the photographer and their friend, the woman in the foreground of this photo. Image by Lachlan Hardy

                                True love means being there even when life gets unbearably hard

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                                shoulder to cry on

                                  A family watches the Vermont National Guard depart for Afghanistan. Image by The U.S. Army

                                  flood dog

                                    During a monsoon in the Philippines, a boy carries his dog to safety. Image by Romeo Ranoco

                                    A woman is rescued from flood waters by a resident standing on top of her car during heavy rain in Chalandri suburb north of Athens

                                      A man helps a woman out of her vehicle during a flood in Chalandri, Greece. Image by John Kolesidis

                                      lunch

                                        A woman has lunch with her husband every day, even after he’s passed away. Image from ViralNova.com

                                        hug

                                          A woman hugs the mother of 6-year-old Noah Ponzer, who was one of the victims of the Sandy Hook shootings. Image by Spencer Platt

                                          rubble

                                            An Oklahoma couple pauses while trying to salvage belongings from a family member’s home after a tornado. Image by Adrees Latif

                                            sister and brother

                                              A girl puts her arm around her little brother as they wait outside of Sandy Hook Elementary after gunshots are fired. Image by Reuters.

                                              headstone

                                                A woman sits at her husband’s grave the day before their wedding anniversary. Image from NBC news

                                                It means taking the time for long goodbyes

                                                110321-N-BT887-100

                                                  A man says goodbye to his son before deploying. Image by Official U.S. Navy Page

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                                                  national guard goodbye

                                                    A South Carolina man says goodbye to his son before deploying for Afghanistan. Image by The National Guard

                                                    saying goodbye

                                                      A Sergeant hugs both of his sons before being deployed to Afghanistan. Image by The National Guard

                                                      And cherishing reunions

                                                      husband home

                                                        A woman hugs her husband as she sees him for the first time since his deployment to Iraq. Image by The U.S. Army

                                                        boyfriend home

                                                          A young  woman hugs her significant other as he returns home for Kuwait. Image by The National Guard

                                                          mother hug

                                                            A mother drops to her knees as she hugs her son on her return home from the Persian Gulf. Image by The National Guard

                                                            True love is letting yourself feel young when they’re around

                                                            elderly women

                                                              Two friends on their smartphones. Image by Robert Neff

                                                              feeling young

                                                                A young couple getting their picture taken. Image by db Photograph

                                                                sprinkler dad

                                                                  A father plays in a sprinkler with his daughter at Millennium Park in Chicago. Image by Ben Forsberg

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                                                                  subway couple

                                                                    A young couple on a subway enjoys sharing time together, while the girlfriend’s father sneaks a photo of them. Image by Gareth Williams

                                                                    wheelchairs

                                                                      A couple holds hands on a fall day. Image by David Amsler

                                                                      It’s letting yourself be silly… just because they’ll enjoy it

                                                                      silly faces

                                                                        A grandfather makes faces at the camera with his granddaughters. Image by Tim Pierce

                                                                        vote for pedro

                                                                          A woman’s father wears a Napoleon Dynamite t-shirt to make his daughter laugh. Image by emdot

                                                                          True love is allowing yourself to show how you really feel

                                                                          date night

                                                                            A young couple kisses in the back of a restaurant in Washington, D.C. Image by Derek Key

                                                                            playing violin

                                                                              Violinist Nancy Dinovo plays at a memorial service for the victims of 9/11. Image by Christopher Morris

                                                                              True love is timeless

                                                                              old friends

                                                                                Friends spending some time together. Image by Cristian Bortes

                                                                                sitting around a fire

                                                                                  A group of friends sits around a campfire eating. Image by New Old Stock

                                                                                  elderly couple

                                                                                    An elderly couple walks down a street together. Image by Matteo Paciotti

                                                                                    Featured photo credit: Matteo Paciotti via flickr.com

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