Good Friends Are Good for You
They might get on your nerves at times, but good friends have bigger benefits than you may realize.
The Health Benefits of Good Friends continued...
Other studies have shown that people with fewer friends tend to die sooner
after having a heart attack than people with a strong social network. Having
lots of friends may even reduce your chances of catching a cold. That's true
even though you're probably exposed to more viruses if you spend a lot of time
"People with social support have fewer cardiovascular problems and
immune problems, and lower levels of cortisol -- a stress hormone," says
Tasha R. Howe, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Humboldt State
University. "Why? The evolutionary argument maintains that humans are
social animals, and we have evolved to be in groups. We have always needed
others for our survival. It's in our genes. Therefore, people with social
connections feel more relaxed and at peace, which is related to better
Friends Can Be Stressful
Friends can be a source of stress, though. In fact, friends can cause more
stress than others precisely because we care so much about them.
Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at Brigham
Young University, has found that dealing with people who arouse conflicted
feelings in us can raise blood pressure more than dealing with people we don't
"My colleagues and I were interested in relationships that contain a mix
of positivity and negativity," she says. "For example, you might love
your mother very much, but still find her overbearing or critical at
By attaching people to portable blood pressure monitors, Holt-Lunstad and
her colleagues found that blood pressure was highest when people were
interacting with someone they felt ambivalent about.
What she found really surprising was that these interactions caused higher
blood pressure than those with people the research subjects felt completely
negative about. "We suspect that people we feel positive toward can hurt us
that much more when they make a snide comment or don't come through for us
because they are important to us. Friends may help us cope with stress, but
they also may create stress."
So would we be better off having no friends at all?
Hardly. "One thing research shows is that as one's social network gets
smaller, one's risk for mortality increases," Holt-Lunstad says. "And
it's a strong correlation -- almost as strong as the correlation between
smoking and mortality."