Strong Friendships May Help You Live Longer
Having Good Friends May Be More Important Than Family Ties for Long Life
June 15, 2005 -- Maybe Rachel, Joey, Chandler, and the rest of the gang on
the hit television series Friends were on to something.
A new study shows that having a group of good friends around may be even
more important than family for a long and healthy life.
Researchers followed nearly 1,500 people over the age of 70 for 10 years and
people with the strongest network of good friends lived
longer than those with the fewest close friends.
effects of friendship on prolonging life remained significant
throughout the decade, even when people were confronted by profound changes,
such as the death of a spouse or family member, or when their friends moved
The results appear in the current issue of the Journal of Epidemiology
and Community Health.
Friendships Promote Long Life
In the study, researchers analyzed data collected from the Australian
Longitudinal Study of Aging, which began in 1992.
At the start of the study, nearly 1,500 people over 70 were asked how much
personal and phone contact they had with various social networks, including
children, relatives, friends, and other confidants (including spouses). The
group was monitored yearly for the first four years of the study and then about
every three years.
After 10 years of follow-up, researchers found close contact with children
and relatives had little impact on the risk of death. But a strong network of
friends and confidants significantly reduced the risk of death during the
For example, those older adults with the strongest network of friends were
22% less likely to die during the study than those with the weakest network of
Researchers say friends may exert a healthy influence on potentially risky
behaviors like smoking and drinking, as well as have important effects on mood,
self-esteem, and coping in times of difficulty.