Family and friends become increasingly important to your health and happiness as you age.
As the old saying goes you can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends. A recent study from Michigan State University suggests that your friendship choices may be more important for your health.
The study discovered that with age the power of friendships strengthen and may even become more important than family relationships.
Researchers identify that friendships become more important to happiness and health across the lifespan. In older adults specifically, friendships were identified as a stronger predictor of health and happiness.
The study involved survey information from over 270,000 participants in over 100 countries. They discovered that while both relationships influence health and happiness, friends did more so than family.
Most of us have that certain someone in our lives that seems to always know how to brighten our day. Whether it be a hug from mum when we are sad or a smile from our best friend. Either way, consciously or subconsciously, we know who to turn to when we are in need of support and love.
The benefits of strong social relationships, whether it be family and friends, has long be thought of as a vital component of health and wellbeing. There are a number of reasons for this association including:
1. Increase your sense of belonging
Strong relationships with family and friends help foster a sense of belonging and purpose in life. The desire to belong is a common human need and the feeling of acceptance is important to overall happiness.
Whether it be a family member who tells you stories of their life or a best friend who makes you feel accepted for who you are. The feeling of belonging and purpose that family and friends provide is unique and offers a wealth of support for mental and physical health.
2. Boost happiness
Friendships and family relationships offer a wonderful support which can help boost happiness and buffer stress.
A study conducted at Harvard Medical School discovered that happiness is contagious. It can even spread through social group up three degrees of separation and effects can last a year.
Reaching out to others in times of stress can improve your mood through the release of a hormone known as oxytocin. It also increases serotonin levels within the brain which plays a major role in mood, anxiety and happiness.
3. Live longer
Studies have suggested people with stronger social relationships are 50% less likely to die prematurely than those who don’t.
This may also relate to the positive daily behaviours our friends and family may influence throughout our lifetime. Such as eating health, exercising, getting out and about, helping us quit smoking and ditching loneliness later in life.
Whether it be a strong relationship with family and friends or just the community, social relationships play a large role in our health, wellbeing and longevity.
Sometime we may bicker with family and friends, disagree on topics and maybe even feel envious of them. Despite this, they are our greatest supports in life and maintaining positive social relationships are proven to influence our mental and physical health.