There has been much talk about ‘Vitamin F’ in recent years. ‘F’ stands for friendship, and believe it or not having friends can be very good for health.
In a study conducted in an Australian University, older individuals who had more friends lived 22% longer than those of the same age with fewer friends. Having the right friends can, in fact, reduce your chances of developing heart disease and other related illnesses. How you may ask?
Well, with the right friends, you are less likely to smoke or drink heavily. Those with responsible friends tend to be more responsible themselves. Those with friends who exercise regularly also tend to exercise along with them.
It is human nature to mimic the actions of those we care about or admire.
Friendship can make a world of difference to our overall health. A paper published in the reputed journal Lancet in 1989 by Professor Speigel from Stanford University showed that those women with breast cancer that were a part of a support group lived twice as longer than those who went through the illness alone.
Emotional support is essential in times of health crisis, and this may be insufficient from a family member alone. It is sometimes important to relate to other individuals who have been through a similar experience, and support groups are of help.
Add to the above, friendships can help reduce stress. Just a quick chat with a friend over a cup of coffee can make a world of difference to one’s mental health.
People with more friends have a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease. However, choose your friends carefully. Some friends can be a source of stress, especially if their company arouses conflicting emotions and feelings. An abrupt comment from a friend can hurt more than a stranger.
But this should not stop one from making new friends and building new bonds. Some researchers have stated that being unfriendly has a mortality risk that is equivalent to that of smoking.
Be social – make sure you have a close group of friends you trust and love. Keep them close, and spend time with them. You most certainly will live longer!
Dr Vivek Baliga is a medical practitioner and the director of a diagnostic center – Baliga Diagnostics – in Bangalore. He specializes in diabetes and heart disease, and is a visiting consultant in Internal Medicine at corporate hospitals. He is married and has one son.