Back to Living Better

4 reasons friends and family are good for your health

The holidays are the perfect time to gather with loved ones-- sharing stories that ignite laughter and good cheer. Engaging in these precious moments with family and friends is not only enjoyable, it’s also beneficial to your health.

Health benefits of social interaction

Being social and spending time with others:  

1. Helps you cope with stress. People who spend time with family and friends find healthier ways to cope with stress. A study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University found that people use their family and friends as a stress buffer, talking about their problems instead of seeking negative coping mechanisms like drinking alcohol, smoking or doing drugs.

2. May lengthen your life. An article in the American Society of Aging noted that older adults with larger social networks have a good episodic memory, better cognitive functions and a lower allostatic load, which is the wear and tear on the body and brain from being stressed. Having a good relationship with marital partners, adult children, siblings, and friends contribute to these positive health effects.

3. Improves psychological well-being. The emotional support provided by social ties enhances your psychological well-being. One study found that people who view their friends and families as supportive reported a greater sense of meaning in life and felt like they had a stronger sense of purpose.

4. Is good for your cardiovascular health. Stress can actually encourage inflammation in the arteries, which is a precursor to atherosclerosis, or clogged arteries. Having good friends and a strong social support network can relieve stress. One study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that people who discussed difficult times in their lives had a lower pulse and blood pressure when they had a friend by their side.

Check out more helpful, healthful advice from Living Better experts.

Related Stories