Friendship – a wildly underrated medication

Facebook users commonly have hundreds of friends, but do these online friendships offer the same health benefits as ‘real’ friendships? Studies have suggested that some forms ofonline connections bring health benefits but others do not. Face-to-face friendships in the real world are known to be associated with lower mortality.

Friendship is not just about fun and camaraderie; strong friendships lower our levels of chronic stress and may even extend our lives. Adults with strong social support have a lower risk of significant health problems, including infection and depression.

Recent studies have found a link between poorer health and social isolation. Biomarkers, such as blood pressure and body mass index, were found to be worse in those with weaker social ties.

As we age, friendships also play a role in keeping our minds sharp. A 2012 study found that feelings of loneliness increased the dementia risk in older people.

So get out there, keep your connections real and where possible aim for in-person discussion in place of a digital dialogue. Chances are you'll feel better, and might even live longer for it!

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