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How Friendship Affects Your Physical & Mental Health

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In a number of studies, friendship and social support have been linked to better physical health outcomes, like lower rates of heart disease. One such study (published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine in 2007) revealed that young men and women who discussed difficult parts of their lives had a lower pulse and blood pressure when a supportive friend accompanied them. Friendship is an important factor in our physical health, but what affects does it have on our mental health?

A 2009 study from the Journal of the National Medical Association surveyed 300 men and women at a free health clinic in Buffalo, New York. They found that respondents with insufficient perceived social support were the most likely to suffer from mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. A good friendship requires a balance between individuals--one where the needs of each are met. Good friendships have a myriad of benefits, such as increased feelings of belonging, purpose, increased levels of happiness, reduced levels of stress, improved self-worth and confidence.

While good friends can help you through traumatic events and can even help you to quit a bad habit you’ve picked up, toxic friendships can leave you feeling drained, stifled, unsatisfied and often unequal. Friendships are unique because they are tied to so many aspects of your life--your family, work, hobbies. When you have a toxic friendship, these feelings can permeate all of these areas as well. If a particular friendship is isn’t meeting your needs, it may be time to reassess whether it deserves a space in your life.

Humans by nature are social animals. Our friendships can have a tremendous impact on our lives--which is why it’s important to make sure that they are leaving you feeling supported, understood, and happy.

 

References
Cadzow, R., & Servoss, T. (2009, March 1). The Association Between Perceived Social Support and Health Among Patients at a Free Urban Clinic. Retrieved January 20, 2015, from http://www.researchgate.net/publication/24243680_The_association_between_perceived_social_support_and_health_among_patients_at_a_free_urban_clinic/file/60b7d5202f86b60009.pdf
Feature, H. (n.d.). Toxic Friendships: Do You Have One? - WebMD. Retrieved January 20, 2015, from http://www.webmd.com/women/features/toxic-friends-less-friend-more-foe
Uchino, B., Carlisle, M., Birmingham, W., & Vaughn, A. (2010, April 14). Social Support and the Reactivity Hypothesis: Conceptual Issues in Examining the Efficacy of Received Support During Acute Psychological Stress. Retrieved January 20, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2928410/
Woolston, C. (2014, March 11). Health Benefits of Friendship. Retrieved January 20, 2015, from  http://consumer.healthday.com/encyclopedia/emotional-health-17/psychology-and-mental-health-news-566/health-benefits-of-friendship-648397.html

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