7 Surprising Benefits of Strong Friendships

7 Surprising Benefits of Strong Friendships

All the amazing ways research has shown our buddies bolster our wellbeing.

By: Maressa Brown

As much as we love our family, spouses, and pets, everyone needs platonic pals! In fact, well-maintained friendships are linked with mental and physical wellness and so many other advantages. Here are seven of the best -- not to mention most surprising! -- benefits of friendship.

1. Longevity. Researchers from the Centre for Ageing Studies at Flinders University in Australia followed nearly 1,500 older people for 10 years. Subjects who had a large network of friends outlived those with the fewest friends by 22 percent! The reason: Those with more friends were likely discouraged from habits that would take a toll on their wellbeing.

2. Wards off depression. Beyond making us happier, having more social support has been shown in research to boost resilience to chronic stress and keep mental illness at bay.

3. Gives us a more positive outlook. Researchers had participants stand at the base of a steep hill and estimate how hard it would be to climb, in a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Those who were standing with a friend actually guessed that the ascent was less steep than those who were alone.

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4. Makes it easier to get well soon. Having more social support may actually boost your chances at fighting illness. A study published in the journal Cancer followed 61 women with advanced ovarian cancer. Those who felt supported by friends had much lower levels of a protein linked to more aggressive types of cancer. Lower levels of the protein, known as interleukin 6, or IL-6, also boosted the effectiveness of chemotherapy.

5. Reduces pain. Not only will friendship help boost your shot at survival, but it can act as a painkiller. Strong social ties and interactions are linked with a greater quality of life (emotional and physical) for breast cancer patients, according to a study published in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, which looked at 3,139 women diagnosed with breast cancer sometime between 2006 and 2011.

6. Soothes our nerves. For women especially, having a circle of friends provides an alternative to the traditional “flight-or-fight” response to stress , according to a study done at UCLA. The researchers said that when we gather with other women (and with kids), we release more oxytocin, which has a soothing effect.

7. Boosts weight loss results. Exercising with a friend could lead to more weight loss than going it alone, found a study published in theArchives of Internal Medicine. The key: enrolling at the gym or signing up for any other workout program together.

What surprising benefits of friendship have you experienced?

Maressa Brown is a senior staff writer for The Stir. She loves writing about and reading up on health/fitness, relationships, and pop culture -- preferably on a beach somewhere.

Image ©iStock.com/mauro_grigollo

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