An article in the January 2014 issue of Monitor on Psychology, a journal from the American Psychological Association, has some surprising conclusions about the benefits of having friends. The article is called “Friends wanted.”
One of the most interesting lines in the article is from a study done by Brigham Young University. They “…found that participants with stronger social relationships were 50 percent more likely to survive over the studies’ given periods than those with weaker connections — a risk comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day and one double that of obesity.” That’s pretty significant. Being lonely is worse for your survival than smoking or obesity.
The conventional wisdom has been that social connections help survival because people are there to drive you to the doctor, or remind you to take your medication, or other direct reasons. But this article suggests that the actual feelings of loneliness may be the culprit, and may be connected to blood pressure, immune response, and disease recovery speed.
They also found out that people are becoming less connected. Family, church, and other real-life social networks are becoming less a part of our lives. People are marrying later and divorcing at a higher rate, leaving a larger number of people living alone.
The conclusion is that adult platonic friendships are important, and we should put effort into building and maintaining those relationships. The article goes on to suggest several ways to make friends and keep those connections.
My wife and I have often talked about how nice it would be to have a group of friends with whom we could go out to dinner, or something. This article may motivate me to get off the couch and give someone a call.