Here are nine incredible health benefits that come from having best buds.
1. You'll live longer
So says a landmark longitudinal 1992-2005 study of seniors over age 70, by researchers in Adelaide, Australia’s Flinders University, and published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Researchers tracked the seniors' annual survival rates and found those with social networks of friends and acquaintances generally lived longer. After controlling for factors like health and lifestyle, the most socially connected seniors were 22 per cent less likely to die over the course of the study than those who were the least social.
And here's the kicker: Having close contact with relatives had no impact on survival rates. Friends make the difference!
2. Friends lower your stress levels
Nothing can cut work or relationship stress like dishing to a trusted gal pal, right?
Whether it's just chatting on the phone or enjoying a coffee together, yakking it up with friends is vital for health and wellness. So don't blow off your girl-time – consider it part of your preventative-health regimen.
3. Friends your healthy eating habits
Starting a healthy eating plan with a friend is a great way to stay motivated and reach your dietary goals.
Be alert to the flipside of this though: Friends also reinforce one another's bad eating habits, says research from the State University of New York at Buffalo, published in a 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Make a commitment to one another that meal times together will be spent eating right.
Having a strong-willpower kind of day? Order first. Chances are good that if you order that kids’ size ice cream cup, she will too.
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4. Friends will drag you to the gym (even on Saturday mornings)
Having a gym, yoga, walking or running buddy makes you more likely to exercise regularly – you don't want to stand up your "date" after all.
So include one of your close friends in your workout regimen. Or, join a walking, running or hiking group (or one tailored to your fitness goals) where you can meet people with similar fitness interests.
5. Girl talk often includes health talk
We women – especially moms – talk about health a lot. Catching up, even via Facebook, often results in also catching up on health news you need to know: Vaccination clinics in your community, lice outbreaks at school, recall warnings on kids' toys or tainted grocery items.
Even dishing on sex has its benefits. You may hear about a new birth control method you want to learn more about, or realize you're overdue for a pelvic exam.
6. You're more likely to get through breast cancer with a friend's help
A 2006 joint University of California, San Francisco and Berkeley/Harvard Medical School study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found women diagnosed with breast cancer were more likely to survive if they had close friends. Researchers hypothesize that cancer patients with friends (or close relatives) benefit from more
beneficial support and care giving than those without.
7. Friends can help you save money on healthy habits
Go splits on health and fitness magazine subscriptions or healthy-eating cookbooks.
Share workout equipment: She buys the kettle bell, you buy the Bosu ball.
Take advantage of buy-one-get-one-free deals on vegetarian-cuisine cooking lessons or discounts on gym memberships.
A lot of healthy habits go from splurges to saves when you have a buddy to split costs 50-50 with!
8. You're least likely to be depressed
For teens, seniors – and in all likelihood, those in between – friends are associated with lower depression rates.
Statistics Canada and Social Development Canada's joint National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (running from 1994 through 2001) found that teens with friends showed fewer signs of depression than those without. A 2002 Johns Hopkins University study of seniors found those with an active social life and friends were also less likely to suffer depression.
Both studies found that good relationships with relatives also have a positive effect in preventing depression.
9. Friends provide help when you really need it
Presumably you're not getting into bar-room brawls, but having someone whom you know has "got your back" is great for your health and well-being.
She can watch your kids while you attend important appointments. She can come with you to the doctor's office for a bad news appointment, and can take notes and offer support as you discuss your treatment plan with your physician.
You know she cares, so if she says she's concerned about your health due to your drinking/texting-and-driving/smoking/unhealthy eating/insert other red-flag habit, you can be sure she's telling you what you need to hear.
And you'd do the same for her, too, right?
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