Friendships essential to health

It’s great when science starts backing things that we thought were a good idea anyway.

It’s great when science starts backing things that we thought were a good idea anyway.

Recently, studies have come out suggesting that it’s a good idea to have friends. Not just because well, you know, friends are fun to hang around with and stuff, but also because there seem to be legitimate health benefits to having and hanging out with friends.

Most of our mothers have been encouraging us to make friends, and pick the right ones, since we were little kids anyway, but it’s always good to hear that there is some kind of scientific logic that provides medical benefit for good choices as well.

Specifically, recent studies advocate men having male friends and women having female friends. That’s not to say there aren’t any benefits to cross-gender friendships or to the bonds between spouses or other family. It just seems that it’s important for people to have friends of their same gender as well.

For the men, researchers at Oxford University in the United Kingdom have found that regularly ‘hanging out with the guys’ may lead to men having healthier lives, having faster recovery times when faced with illness and live more generous lives.

The new study, funded by Guinness, suggests men should get together at least twice a week to partake in activities like sports or going out for a few pints (we did say the study was sponsored by a beer company right?)

It is also important that these reactions be face-to-face and not through social media or electronic devices. Apparently, in-person interactions with the guys release endorphins, which appear to be responsible for these health benefits.

For the ladies, researchers at Flinders University in Australia have found evidence to suggest that women with more close friends outlive those with less. In a 2009 Harvard Medical School study, research suggested women were less likely to develop physical impairments as they aged if they had strong relationships with ‘girlfriends.’

It also found that, for women, not having strong female friendships may be as unhealthy as smoking or being overweight.

Professor Pat O’Connor of University of Limerick said that female-to-female relationships provide an outlet for women that isn’t met by relationships with males.

She said that women are more likely to confide in their female friends about health issues which leads to both better physical and mental health.

So it would appear that, once again, your mom was right. Be careful who you choose to be friends with. It may be one of the most important decisions you ever make in your life.