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The Health Benefits of Good Friends: How a Supportive Community can Improve Your Life

Written by Health Writer Gerda Venter

Medically reviewed by Dr. Daniela Steyn

Did you know that having good friends is good for your health? It's true! Studies have shown that people with supportive communities and strong relationships with friends tend to be healthier and happier than those who don't. Many people turn to doctors, self-help books, or herbal supplements in the quest for better health. But they overlook a powerful weapon that could help them fight illness and depression, speed recovery, slow aging and prolong life - their friends.

In August 1992, researchers published the ground-breaking results of a 50-year study based on a close-knit community in Roseto, Pennsylvania. In 1882 a group of Italian immigrants settled in this picturesque town. The study tracked the town's residents from 1935 to 1984. Researchers found that Roseto residents experienced far less stress and heart disease than the average population throughout the study. In a follow-up to the study, researchers concluded that these physical and mental health benefits are due to the spirit of cooperation and community in Roseto.

Countless other studies support a crucial factor of happy living: communities help people thrive. Good friends are good for your physical and emotional health. Friends can help you celebrate good times and provide support during bad times. Friends provide emotional support, social interaction, and a sense of belonging. They also help you reduce stress, improve your mental health, and recover from illness. Friendships encourage healthy behaviours and stronger community connections and even lead to a longer life span! This blog post will discuss the top six health benefits of having good friends:

1. Friends reduce stress levels

One of the most significant health benefits of having good friends is that they reduce stress levels. Scientists are investigating the biological and behavioural factors that account for the health benefits of connecting with others. Chronic stress has been linked to countless health problems. Stress can adversely affect cardiovascular health, gut function, insulin regulation, and the immune system. But friends can help reduce stress by providing emotional support and social interaction.

When you experience something stressful, if you have a stress response system that's working as it should, the result is an increase in cortisol, our primary stress hormone, which tells your body to release glucose into your bloodstream. This physiological reaction occurs to help you cope with the stressor.

On the other hand, a caring friend triggers the release of stress-reducing hormones, resulting in many health benefits. In one study, researchers found that children who had a negative experience while their best friend was present not only felt better about themselves afterwards but also had lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, than those who did not have a friend present.

Having good friends around, therefore, reduce stress levels. This is likely due to the social support that friends provide. Social support can come in many forms, including offers of help or advice, expressions of affection, and simply being there for the person.

2. Friends improve your mental health

Good friends also i