Having Friends Actually Makes You Healthier: Here are the Benefits

Kelly Carmody
10 min readOct 30, 2020

Healthy friendships can make life much sweeter. Some would even go so far as to say that they friendship is one of the greatest pleasures in life, if not THE greatest pleasure. There are numerous extremely practical positive benefits of having friends.

Benefits of Friends #1 Reduced Stress

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Social contact is one of the most important means of relieving stress. In a study on best friends and stress levels, children who had a negative experience while their best friend was present actually had lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, then those who did not have a friend with them at the time.

Being around friends helps us to see stress through a different lens. In one study where researchers went around asking people who were alone, and people who were with a friend to estimate the steepness of a hill that they would have to shortly climb, those who were with a friend actually estimated the hill as less steep.

In another study, researchers approached men walking around a college campus either alone or with friends. Each man was shown a picture of an alleged terrorist and asked to estimate how physically formidable the terrorist was.

The men who were alone actually estimated that terrorists were more physically formidable, while the men who were walking with friends perceived them as less threatening. We are less stressed out by threats when we are with friends.

Benefits of Friends #2 Improved Mood and Mental Health

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A good laugh with friends can release endorphins (the same feel good hormones that are released during exercise) into our bodies. Friends can boost our moods just by being there for us sometimes. It can feel really good to be able to speak honestly with somebody about how you’re feeling. Talking about your day can help to lighten the load on your mind. Sharing experiences, thoughts, and feelings can help us to feel better.

If you are going through a period of poor mental health in your life, or struggling with depression or anxiety, friends can help greatly with this. A sense of social belonging is as important as water, food, and shelter. Knowing that there are people who care about you, and will carry you if you can no longer carry yourself can provide a huge sense of security.

When we’re going through dark days mentally, friends can help to remind us of our strengths. They can pass on hope to us, and help us believe that things will indeed get better when we can’t always see it ourselves.

One study found that having closer friendships in adolescence may even lead to better mental health as an adult. Teenagers with close friendships tend to be more adaptive to stress, are happier due to increased feelings of uniqueness, and likely to do better academically. They also tend to have higher self-esteem and be more assertive.

Those teenagers from the study, when analyzed again at the age of 25, who had put close friendships first in their lives at the age of 15, tended to have lower social anxiety, a higher sense of self worth, and fewer depressive symptoms by the age of 25 compared to their peers who had not prioritized these friendships.

Benefits of Friends #3 Improved Physical Health

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People with strong, healthy friendships generally have better physical health than those with less social support, and may even have lower rates of negative health outcomes, like heart disease.

One study compared different biological measures of people who reported being in isolation, vs. people who reported having many friends across their life span. These measures included blood pressure, BMI, waist circumference, and levels of inflammation markers, and tended to be worse in people with weaker social ties.

Older people aged 57 to 91 who felt socially isolated had double the risk of high blood pressure as those who didn’t feel isolated. Feeling socially isolated increased the risk of having high blood pressure even more so than having diabetes did.

Teens who felt integrated into their social circles were much less likely to be obese than those who did not, and teens who were integrated into their social circles were also less likely to experience inflammation than those who felt less integrated.

Benefits of Friends #4 Longer Life

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Our friends can help us to live longer lives. Women who have at least one good friend to talk to survive longer after surgery for breast cancer. And people with stronger social relationships tend to have a 50% lower risk for mortality overall. Friendship has an even bigger impact on living a long life than family relationships. People with the most friends tend to outlive those with the fewest friends by 22%.

Benefits of Friends #5 Sharp Mind

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Being social and having more friends may actually help us to fight off mental decline as we age. It is easy to overlook, but socializing with others requires quite a strong mental commitment. When you’re dealing with somebody that you’re trying to understand, you are usually trying to figure out what motives and beliefs they have, and that requires a lot of mental energy.

Women with larger social networks are 26% less likely to develop dementia than those with smaller social networks as they age. Women who have daily contact with friends and family cut the risk of dementia by almost half. People who have three or more close relationships tend to do the best.

Social interaction is believed to stimulate the formation of brain synapses, enhance blood flow in the brain, and increase the formation of nerve cells. Even among those older people who develop Alzheimer’s, those with larger social networks are much less likely to experience memory loss from it than those with smaller social networks.

Benefits of Friends #6 Increased Self-Esteem

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Having good friends can actually boost our sense of self-worth. Being there for your friends can make you feel needed and can add a sense of purpose to your life. Friends often cheer on our successes, and take pride in our achievements.

Positive social relationships help to develop a sense of self-esteem in a person, and this has been proven in studies of people over time. Just knowing that you have people that love you and value you for who you are, and support you unconditionally, can make you feel good about yourself. Your friends can help you to understand and reaffirm how great you are.

Benefits of Friends #7 Support in Tough Times

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It is inevitable that at one point or another we are going to go through some tough times in life. A good friend can help lighten our burden, and be a shoulder to cry on. Your friends can listen to you when you need to be listened to, when you need somebody to tell your story to.

They can help you to make decisions in difficult moments, and offer practical help. They might make calls for you, do errands for you, or bring food to you during a crisis. If you need it, friends can even help you to get professional help on board, such as a physician or therapist.

The quality of your friendships may be directly linked to how resilient you are through hard times. In one study, participants were asked about their ability to bounce back from challenging life situations, like divorce, chronic illness, or the death of a loved one, and the relationship with the person they would consider to be their “best friend”.

It turned out that the greater the quality of the relationship with their best friend, the more resilient they were one year on from the event.

Benefits of Friends #8 Celebrate Good Times

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Not only are friends there for you when things get tough, but they can help you to celebrate life’s greatest joys as well. Imagine that you’re getting married, and you’re about to walk down the aisle. Wouldn’t you love to have your best friend as a bridesmaid, or best man, at your wedding? And all of your other friends eating cake with you at your enormous, lavish, wedding reception later that evening?

Or maybe in the future you’ve published a book, wouldn’t it be great if all of your closest friends were right there with you at the party? Or say you’ve opened up a new bakery, serving up deliciously scrumptious scones and muffins. Imagine how much sweeter they would taste with good friends enjoying them alongside you, toasting in your honor.

Friends can help you to celebrate the special moments in your life. They can play your favorite song for you at your birthday party. They might help pick out the perfect outfit for your newborn child. Or it could even just be as simple as helping you to deeply appreciate and enjoy a Tuesday afternoon.

Benefits of Friends #9 Give Perspective

It can be really helpful to get a second opinion when making a big decision from somebody who knows you well. Especially in very emotional times, a friend can help to calm you down, and get you into a better frame of mind, before making a big, important decision.

They can help you to find the problem under the problem. Often, quitting a job, sport, or relationship is a sign of another emotional problem underneath, and sometimes a friend will be able to help you to see that better than you would yourself.

There can be serious benefits to seeking a second opinion from somebody who knows us well. Friends can help you to understand your options more clearly. This can be even more true if your friend has been in a similar situation in the past and has experience with it.

It can be very useful to bounce an idea off someone you trust, and take their opinion into account, especially if you are feeling unsure about the correct way to proceed in a specific situation.

Benefits of Friends #10 Push us to Grow

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True friends can inspire us to reach the heights of our potential. An honest friend who wants the best for us can give us constructive criticism on areas in our life that we may need to work on. For example, they could tell you if they think you’ve been a jerk, if they think you should have quit your job, or if they’ve noticed that you’ve given up on a dream that you had a long time ago.

Friends might push you to take a new opportunity for yourself that you know you should take, but you’re scared to do it on your own. If you’re in college, they may encourage you to join that Neuroscience Honor Society you’ve been considering joining.

If you’re struggling with mental illness, they may encourage you to get into treatment, and take care of your mental health. If you have issues with confidence, they may push your limits of what you previously believed that you were able to do.

Your friends can inspire you. If you surround yourself with dreamers and doers, and people who are constantly chasing their dreams and pushing themselves to the next level of growth, it will inspire you to do the same. You can be elevated by each other, when one of your friends achieves a new level of attainment, it will push you to rethink the limits of what you previously thought possible.

Your closest friends are a reflection of you, align yourself with people who share your values and goals in life, and who can help you to grow into the best possible version of yourself.


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Close friendships are one of the most valuable resources that we have in life. Friends can improve our quality of life in so many different ways. They can improve both our mental and physical health, and reduce our overall levels of stress. Friends can even expand our lifespans and help us to live longer lives.

Friends are there with us for the best and worst times of our lives, to share in both the joys and the sorrows. Friends can help keep our minds sharp as we age, and boost our self-confidence.

They can help us to make the most important decisions of our lives, and push us to grow to be the best versions of ourselves. The benefits of friends are obvious — invest your time in some high quality friendships immediately.

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