Friends Make Us Happier, Healthier People

Sometimes we bicker with our friends, feel envious of them, or even gossip about each other. So why do we bother with friends? Because they make us burst into laughter when we’re down in the dumps. Because they’re there to slap us on the back and raise a glass when we have good news. And because they play a starring role in some of our most precious memories.

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So… here are some of our favorite reasons why people need people:

Happiness Is Contagious

If a friend of ours is happy, we’re more likely to be, too. A Harvard Medical School study of 5,000 people over 20 years found that one person’s happiness spreads through their social group even up to three degrees of separation, and that the effect lasts as long as a year. On the flip side, sadness isn’t as contagious: While having a friend who’s happy improves your likelihood of being happy by 15 percent, having one who’s unhappy lowers your chances by just 7 percent. Fascinating

Our Friends Help Us Feel Optimistic

Researchers say that daily social support is a key factor in feeling optimistic. Optimism, in turn, increases our satisfaction with life and lowers our risk of depression. Another study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology showed that when we feel that we have social support, our visual perception of challenges actually changes: Mountains look more like molehills.

Friendships Improve Our Health

Let us count the ways! 1. Those of us who have social support are more likely to keep up an exercise plan more than a year after starting it. 2. The least “socially integrated” people experience memory declines twice as fast as those who are more connected. 3. Social support wards off depression and suicide. 4. People who are lonely tend to have higher blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease, and they’re more likely to “give up” or “quit trying” to deal with a stressor such as illness.