July 11, 2005 by Thriving Now Support

Friends to Live Well (and Long!)

From Science Blog:

A network of good friends, rather than close family ties, helps you live longer in older age, suggests research in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The research team drew on data from the Australian Longitudinal Study of Aging (ALSA), which began in 1992 in Adelaide, South Australia. The study aimed to assess how economic, social, behavioural and environmental factors affected the health and wellbeing of people aged 70 and upwards.

In total, almost 1500 people were asked how much personal and phone contact they had with their various social networks, including children, relatives, friends, and confidants.

Survival was monitored over 10 years. The group was monitored annually for the first four years of the study and then at approximately three yearly intervals.

The research team also considered the impact of factors likely to influence survival rates, such as socioeconomic status, health, and lifestyle.

Close contact with children and relatives had little impact on survival rates over the 10 years. But a strong network of friends and confidants significantly improved the chances of survival over that period.

Those with the strongest network of friends and confidants lived longer than those with the fewest friends/confidants.

The beneficial effects on survival persisted across the decade, irrespective of other profound changes in individuals’ lives, including the death of a spouse or close family members, and the relocation of friends to other parts of the country.

The authors speculate that friends may influence health behaviours, such as smoking and drinking, or seeking medical help for troubling symptoms. Friends may also have important effects on mood, self esteem, and coping mechanisms in times of difficulty.

An accompanying editorial suggests that feeling connected to others may provide meaning and purpose that is not only essential to the human condition, but also to longevity, conferring a positive physiological effect on the body in the same way that stress confers a negative effect.

Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health July 2005; 59(7):574-9

In the article Circles of Support, I spoke about expanding ones circle to a broader base than those we narrowly define as close family. It is wonderful when we have a supportive spouse, children, and extended family. For some, that may be enough. Yet, this study touches the benefits of connecting with those outside our immediate “energy sphere.”

With friends, even close friends, we can often find it easier to be playful and to focus on the positive. Why? I believe it is because friends have energy that helps us connect with our hearts, with spirit, and with joy. Friends are selected, friends are by choice, and friends often see (and bring out) qualities in ourselves that contribute to a sense of well-being.

One of the first uses of EFT for me was to go back through any experiences with friends that still held a negative hurt and harmonize those feelings. If you find yourself afraid that friends will leave you, or do something untrustworthy, or cause you more pain than the pleasure of their friendship is worth, ask yourself the question: “Who does this remind me of?” Then, use EFT on the specific memories that are tied to those feelings. If you have a specific example and need some coaching to work through it, please let me know.

A good friend who brings out the best in your energy, who enjoys sharing life experiences with you, who is healthy enough to listen to your pains without being hurt by them, who lets you express your love and appreciation freely… such friends are the foundation of a rich and thriving life.

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