Aging and the Power of Friendships

Aging can be challenging and taxing, but the good news is that friendships can provide much-needed emotional support to help ease the transition. Studies have proven this fact: friends can be powerful sources of resilience and positivity for seniors by providing a sense of belonging and connectivity which in turn improves mental health outcomes.

Once we feel supported by our friends, it can actually boost our immune system, promote good sleep and heart health, as well as lead to happier living overall. A study led by Steve Cole, a psychologist from UCLA School of Medicine and professionals from University of Chicago, demonstrated this fact through research that revealed when someone was isolated they experienced abnormalities in their monocytes (white blood cells responsible for fighting infection) but when socially connected their monocytes remained mature and healthy.

Researchers have long observed the correlation between strong relationships with friends and increased longevity; and socialization; and reduced chronic health problems. According to a 2010 JAMA Internal Medicine study, those who had strong friendships lived 22% longer than those without.

William Chopik of Michigan State University psychology department conducted a massive survey with over 280,000 people to reach his conclusion that friendships were more powerful predictors of happiness, wellbeing and functioning than familial ties, as well as providing compensation for lost roles that accompany aging such as work or parental responsibilities.