Blog by Norma
As the holidays and end of the year approach, we add increasing importance to our relationships, often focusing on the romantic over the platonic. An article published by the American Psychological Association in June of this year emphasizes the importance of friendships and their positive impact on our health and well-being.
People with close friends are more satisfied with their lives and, therefore, tend to be less likely to suffer from depression and less likely to die from all causes. Compare this to individuals with low social connections who tend to have an increased risk of premature loneliness, according to Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Ph.D., professor of psychology and neuroscience at Bringham Young University.
Adult friendships significantly predict our well-being and can protect us against mental health issues. Friendships change how we respond to stress; decreased blood pressure when talking to a supportive friend and reduced heart rate reactivity to challenging tasks are examples. The importance of friendships becomes more apparent when we note that loneliness has an increased risk of heart attacks, stroke, and premature death based on a study of 480,000 UK residents. In 2021, 12% of US adults stated they did not have close friends, marking an increase from 3% in 1990. These feelings of loneliness have only worsened since 2012, when social media and technology became mainstream, and were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
What can we do daily to help mitigate feelings of loneliness?
"Weak ties" with acquaintances, the barista at our favorite coffee shop, neighbors, or strangers can boost our mental health. Gillian Sandstrom, Ph.D., University of Sussex, argues that people with more "weak-tie" interactions are happier than those who do not have weak-tie interactions. Therefore, attempt to converse with someone new next time you are out. This can be the slight boost you need for your mental health.
We should not limit behaviors that create intimacy, such as going on dates or having deep, meaningful conversations, to romantic relationships. Instead, we should promote and actively seek to engage in platonic social connections across society.
Source: Abrams, Z. (2023, June 1). The Science of Why Friendships Keep Us Health. Monitor on Psychology. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2023/06/cover-story-science-friendship