Friendships Keep You Happy and Healthy

Texas Health Resources is advancing the science of well-being to keep you healthier. From job satisfaction to social relationships to lifestyle habits, every aspect of your life affects well-being. This is the second of a four-part series.

Truth: Well-being impacts your life and your health.

Anyone who has been through a break-up, a tough time at work, an illness or death of a family member, or any other personal challenge knows the comforting power of a hug or phone call from a loved one. Now there is science to back up the notion that solid personal relationships are like “chicken soup” for the mind, body and spirit.

Take a study done on healing time, for example. Researchers brought in 42 married couples and created several small wounds on their arms to study how stress affected their rate of healing. The results showed that people who reported having “hostility” in their marriage took twice as long to heal. Taking longer to heal — whether it’s from a major surgery or injury, or perhaps psychologically — significantly impacts your well-being. Having positive, supportive relationships in your life can help you get yourself well faster.

Tricia Nguyen, M.D.

Tricia Nguyen, M.D.

“Relationships can impact your health negatively or positively,” said Tricia Nguyen, M.D., executive vice president of population health and president of Texas Health Population Health, Education & Innovation Center. “Medicine has always recognized the role and power of healing that friends and family can have on a patient when he or she is sick. But now, patients know that they don’t have to wait to be sick to feel the positive effects of a solid friendship.”

Relationships also serve as a buffer during tough times, physically improving our cardiovascular functioning and decreasing stress levels. In fact, people with good social ties have nearly half the risk of dying from heart disease or catching colds, even when the exposure to germs that come from frequent social contact is figured in. Friends keep us healthy and happy — and they really are good for your heart.

Which friends are the most influential? Studies show that it’s the ones who are closest in proximity to you who have the most influence. A friend who lives within a mile of you will likely have more influence on your well-being than one who lives several miles away. Next-door neighbors? Yes, they count, too. Your social network has great influence on your personal well-being, and you have influence on your entire network. Simply put, we have a vested interest in others’ well-being, and they do in ours.

Have you made time to see an old friend lately, or stopped to say hello to that new neighbor? You just might improve their well-being — and yours.

Read more about the science behind it:

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