Studies have showed that having friends can extend your life. A new studies reinforces this idea, proving that just like a healthy diet and constant exercise, friends can be extremely beneficial for your long-term health. The paper was led by researchers from the University of North Carolina and was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The research team examined information from surveys providing information about Americans who ranged from teens to seniors. The data came from 148 studies that had in total involved over 300.00 people. The investigators looked at social support, social integration and social strain. Afterwards they analyzed four health indicators, namely body mass, blood pressure, systemic inflammation and waist circumference. They did so because these factors are linked to various diseases such as cancer, stroke and heart disease.
The researchers argue that health and friendship are linked by the stress processing function of our body. Isolations leads to chronic stress and this has harmful effects on the body. Generally speaking stress is good: just like when your body is infected with a virus and your immune system responds with specialized cells in order to attacks the intruder, the fact that your body responds with a pounding heart, norepinephrine and enhanced alertness in a stressful situation is a good thing. But on the long run, in case of isolation, these reactions lead to physical wear.
The findings of the study indicate that the participants in the study who had weak social ties also presented weaker health markers. For example elderly participants in the study who did not have social connections had double chances of enhanced blood pressure.
Past studies prove that older adults who have an extended social network live longer. This new study confirms this idea by proving that irrespective of the stage of life health risk is reduced by social links.
One of the authors of the study, Kathleen Mullan Harris, said that based on the findings of the study it is very important to encourage young adults and teenagers to have extended social relationships and acquire social skills since this factor influences our lives just as much as alimentation and physical activity do.
Even though the study did not establish a cause and effect relationship, the extensive data used in the research should be enough to make people pay more attention to such matters and focus more on trying to have a healthy social life.
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