Friendships: Enrich your life and improve your health
Discover the connection between health and friendship, and how to promote and maintain healthy friendships.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Friendships can have a major impact on your health and well-being, but it's not always easy to build or maintain friendships. Understand the importance of friendships in your life and what you can do to develop and nurture friendships.
What are the benefits of friendships?
Good friends are good for your health. Friends can help you celebrate good times and provide support during bad times. Friends prevent loneliness and give you a chance to offer needed companionship, too. Friends can also:
- Increase your sense of belonging and purpose
- Boost your happiness and reduce your stress
- Improve your self-confidence and self-worth
- Help you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one
- Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise
Friends also play a significant role in promoting your overall health. Adults with strong social support have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index (BMI). Studies have even found that older adults with a rich social life are likely to live longer than their peers with fewer connections.
Why is it sometimes hard to make friends or maintain friendships?
Many adults find it hard to develop new friendships or keep up existing friendships. Friendships may take a back seat to other priorities, such as work or caring for children or aging parents. You and your friends may have grown apart due to changes in your lives or interests. Or maybe you've moved to a new community and haven't yet found a way to meet people.
Developing and maintaining good friendships takes effort. The enjoyment and comfort friendship can provide, however, makes the investment worthwhile.
What's a healthy number of friends?
Quality counts more than quantity. While it's good to cultivate a diverse network of friends and acquaintances, you also want to nurture a few truly close friends who will be there for you through thick and thin.
Sept. 28, 2016
See more In-depth
- Wilson RE, et al. Personality and friendship satisfaction in daily life: Do everyday social interactions account for individual differences in friendship satisfaction? European Journal of Personality. 2015;29:173.
- Ong AD, et al. Loneliness and health in older adults: A mini-review and synthesis. Gerontology 2016;62:443.
- O'Connell BH, et al. Enhancing social relationships through positive psychology activities: A randomised controlled trial. The Journal of Positive Psychology. 2016;11:149.
- Yang YC, et al. Social relationships and physiological determinants of longevity across the human life span. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2016;113:578.
- Hall-Flavin D (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Sept. 9, 2016.
- Thoits PA. Mechanisms linking social ties and support to physical and mental health. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 2011;52:145.
- Halter JB, et al. Preventive gerontology: Strategies for optimizing health across the life span. In: Hazzard's Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology. 6th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2009. http://www.accessmedicine.com. Accessed Sept. 14, 2016.
- McCloskey W, et al. Are Facebook "friends" helpful? Development of a Facebook-based measure of social support and examination of relationships among depression, quality of life, and social support. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking. 2015;18:499.
- MacLeod C, MSW. In: The Social Skills Guidebook: Manage Shyness, Improve Your Conversations, and Make Friends, Without Giving Up Who You Are. Introduction to the Process of Making Friends. Self-published, 2016.
- Rakel D. Anxiety. In: Integrative Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Sept. 14, 2016.
- Bystritsky A. Complementary and alternative treatments for anxiety symptoms and disorders: Physical, cognitive, and spiritual interventions. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 14, 2016.