Friends play a significant role in enriching your life in addition to promoting your overall health. Good female friends make life easier and happier. They celebrate you when you’re happy and boost you when you’re sad. Strong and supportive relationships are just as important for your health as diet and exercise. Their influence is bigger than you might realise.
Scientists are constantly uncovering the impact of solid friendships on health and well-being. In fact, studies show that strong friendships come with a number of surprising physical, emotional, and mental-health benefits.
Spending time with good friends can lower blood pressure, boost happiness and reduce stress, avert loneliness, improve self-confidence and self-worth, and even prevent breast cancer in women, among other things. Adults with strong social support have a reduced risk of an unhealthy body mass index (BMI). Moreover, studies have found that older adults with a rich social life are likely to live longer than their peers with fewer connections.
Here are some ways that best female friends can boost women’s health:
Women feel better and deal with stress differently when other women are around. In a series of studies conducted at the University of Virginia in the US, people were faced with the threat of getting an electric shock either while solo or while holding a friend’s hand. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans revealed that in those clinging to a friend, the brain regions that sense danger were significantly less active.
The effects of watching or even thinking about someone with strong self-control is strong, and it works promptly because it increases the amount you think about willpower.
Avoiding breast cancer:
A study of a group of women in Chicago in the US diagnosed with breast cancer found that the release of cortisol due to the stress of social isolation assisted in the growth of tumour cells. In other words, loneliness literally accelerated their cancer.
You’re more likely to take major financial risks when you’re feeling lonely or rejected. Close friendships keep you on an even keel.
Friends can have Prozac-like powers. A UK study revealed that people with depression doubled their chances of bouncing back if they had friends with healthy moods. Another study revealed that women who have 10 or more friends to socialise with experience better psychological well-being in midlife than those who have fewer.
Lowering blood pressure:
A study published in the US journal Psychology and Aging showed a correlation between chronic feelings of loneliness and increases in blood pressure. It found that the loneliest participants had a 14-point increase in blood pressure compared to the most social ones. Dealing with feelings of loneliness and fostering a sense of connectedness could help slow the progression of blood pressure increases.
Coping with trauma:
There’s no doubt that having a hand to hold during the darkest periods of your life can help. In fact, one study has shown that having a friend around during harsh events such as divorce, serious illness, job loss, or the death of a loved one can significantly buffer the negativity of the experience and increase self-confidence.
Making exercise enjoyable:
Your friends can make fitness more fun. A number of studies have found that exercising with a friend can encourage you to work out harder and more frequently through both inspiration and competition.
Helping you live longer:
People who have strong social relationships are less likely to die prematurely. In fact, having good friends is twice as effective as exercise and quitting smoking when it comes to extending life. A landmark Australian study of elderly people over the course of 10 years revealed that those with strong friendships were 22 per cent less likely to die prematurely.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 26 May, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.