Today I am grateful for friends, two of whom are my sisters. I heard on the radio the other day that friends are as important to our health and well being as exercise, eating right, and not smoking. An article in the Huffington Post discusses this briefly:
“Most of us accept that the secret to living to a very old age is either down to genetics or lifestyle. In reality, it’s a bit of both, with genetics actually only contributing 20-30 percent of the likelihood of living to 100.
Ultimately, lifestyle is the bit that we can control, so most longevity research (research into lifespan) has focused upon this. Most of us know that eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, not smoking, drinking in moderation, and reducing stress in our lives is the way to go.
But one additional vital ingredient is missing from this menu. That ingredient is friends!
It turns out that the positive effect of regular social contact to a persons’ health is about as strong as the effect of blood pressure, smoking, alcohol habits, obesity, and eating a healthy diet.
Take, for instance, the following two pieces of research:
In 2010, researchers at Brigham Young University published a summary analysis of 148 different studies that involved 308,849 people. They were of an average age of 63.9 years and hailed from four different continents, and the study dealt with the impact of social relationships on mortality risk.
The conclusion was startling: People who enjoyed strong social ties had a 50 percent increased likelihood of survival over a measured period of 7.5 years compared with people with weak or no social ties.” (Read more here.)
There are times I have felt lonely in my life, longed for a close friend, for the unencumbered connections of childhood. I’m always brought back to the way out of loneliness – to reach out and do something for someone else. To pick up the phone, to send a note, to smile at a stranger. Sometimes that is a great challenge for me, but I’ve never regretted trying to be a friend.
If connections to others are so important to our health and longevity, it concerns me that so many young people (especially late 20s, early 30s) seem to have trouble forming relationships. A young woman recently told me that she had made more than 150 attempts to connect to young men through reputable dating sites. She had some responses, but has yet to meet one of these people face-to-face. Is the fear of rejection, of not being “good looking” enough, or smart enough, or whatever so strong? Or is it selfishness that makes it more comfortable to keep others at a distance?
This is probably not the right audience for this writing, but my concern for young people is real. Just as real is the fact that the SOL community is one that thrives on connection. For that, I’m so grateful.