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Friendships and social networks: keys to expand your life expectancy

Friends are obviously an essential part of everyone's life, but not everyone knows that their friends and relationships might affect their life span.


Recently, a new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill published in the journal PNAS has pointed that the friendships and social networks have as much impact on the life expectancy as die and exercise do.

In this study, the data is collected from four surveys conducting in national scale to observe participants' relationships, health and life span, since they were teens. Researchers considered three aspects of relationships: social integration, social support, and social strain, and compared them to such typical elements for the risk of mortality as BMI, waist circumference, bodily inflammation and blood pressure.

What they discovered are extremely surprising, including:

- The more social connections people had at an early age, the better their health was at the beginning and the end of their lives.

- Good relationships can reduce a person's risk of facing with obesity, bodily inflammation and blood pressure - the root of heart disease and cancer as well.

- When people are young, they concern about how large their social networks is but as they get older, actual connections matter more than numbers.

Kathleen Mullan Harris (Ph.D., University of North Carolina) expressed her surprise about her findings. ""Nobody has ever studied this before, the relationship of social networks across the lifespan," she said.

Why does the link exist? Harris indicates that stress is the main reason. It is naturally for our bodies to react by storing fat, raising our blood pressure, and becoming inflamed when we are stressed (these reactions can lead to numerous health problems). Luckily, friendships are able to "handle" some of this stress.

Ph.D., Kathleen Mullan Harris explains: "Social relationships help buffer the effects of daily stress and improve your health. If you don't have them, you feel more stress and that translates into physiological consequences for your body."

She also found for people in their 20s, the most important factor is the level of their social networks integration. It means that how many friends they got, how tight these interconnections are, as well as how involved they are in the community.

Focusing on the number friends people have sounds quite immaturely, however, Ph.D., John Mayer, author of "Family Fit: Find Your Balance in Life" thinks it is rational. He says that size counts because it gives us a better chance for the richness or happiness that our social life can add. "Not all social friendship can be happy, but when we have many to choose from, the chances that one will keep adding to our emotional life is better.", he explains.

The results of this study might be a motivation for you to express your thoughts and feelings to your friends. Remember, the more you communicate, the longer your life extends. You have a messy day, talk to your friends. You have a wonderful new, share with your friends. Keep this in mind: More friends, longer life.

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