New Study Says Friendship Might Be the Secret to A Long and Healthy Life
We’re not much for gambling, but we bet that as soon as you’re done reading this article, you’re going to want to call your best friend and set up a get together. Turns out there are some very good science-backed reasons for calling your best friend up right now. A recent study by researchers at Northwestern University found a link between brain health and positive relationships, a.k.a. all those people in your life that you love to be around.
To come to this revelation, researchers spent nine years studying a group of so-called “SuperAgers,” men and women over the age of 80 whose memories are as good as — or better — than people 20 to 30 years younger. They discovered that out of all the tests they gave these SuperAgers from brain scans to neuropsychological tests to neurological examinations, one thing they all had in common were satisfying, trusting relationships.
This confirms prior research that has linked strong, positive friendships with a reduced risk of the cognitive decline that comes too often with aging. An earlier study that found that older people's dementia risk increased with their feelings of loneliness.
Friendship is not just good for your memory and mental health, though. A 2010 review of research found that good friendships and strong social ties can be better for you than exercise and can be the health equivalent of quitting smoking. Even more, people take cues from their friends who exercise or eat well to lose weight, as a 2011 study confirmed, leading them to make healthier choices. Other studies have found that when we go without close friends we're more prone to heart disease, arthritis, and Type 2 diabetes, too.
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A 2017 study from the University of Michigan found that good friendships—not family relationships—can lead to higher function and better health among older populations. Author William Chopik looked at more than 270,000 people in nearly 100 countries, and found that while both family and friend relationships were associated with better health and happiness overall, when people reached advanced ages, the link remained only for people who reported strong friendships.
In short, call a friend right now, it’s for your own good!