In the words of popular '90s R&B group TLC, "What about your friends? Will they stand their ground, will they let you down?" These are all important questions and a new study just confirmed that having close friends, particularly in old age, is imperative to good health. While you're thinking, "Well, duh!" this study contradicts the old saying that "blood is thicker than water." But if you're #blessed enough to find a group of women to cheer you on, motivate you and share laughs with, this might actually be more healthy than those family ties — whereas close connections to family have a static and positive effect on health over time, friendships have their peak effect on health later in life.
Even though the study cites that those friendships are most beneficial health-wise in your older years, it's good food for thought about building the right tribe. William J. Chopik of the Michigan State University Department of Psychology led the study, which was recently published in Personal Relationships.
"There is now a large body of research supporting the idea that close relationships enhance health and well-being across the lifespan," explained Chopik to NY Magazine.
There is actually very little known about how friendships can impact your health. What we do now is just from observation from over the years; friendship can impact your mood, and even the eating and drinking habits you form. But there's a reason we adore movies, books, and television shows about friendship circles. Not only do you see yourself in the characters or the characteristics of your BFF, but it genuinely feels good to have someone who just gets you.
But just how did Chopik prove all of this with science? The first experiment explored the link between a person's overall health and the value they place on friendships or family. The other test interrogated just how that affected a group of elderly people and asked about the support they received from friendships and family members. With over 271,000 people surveyed, the results concluded that, yes, people who value their families are generally happier than people who do not. But the interesting find was about friendships!
In older patients, the impact of friendships was even more effective in keeping them happy and sane. And amen to that! When looking at how age-related illnesses, their friendships were a large factor on if these chronic diseases would develop in their later years. However, when tested for the effects of family ties, it brought back the usual assumption. Depending on the quality of those family ties, it can impact your "subjective well-being," but long term, friendships may have more of an impact.
So if you haven't found the Molly to your Issa Rae, it's OK! But keep looking! Friendships are an important part of your mental and physical health according to science. This year, invest more in those bonds and don't be afraid to dust off that girls night you keep putting off with an old friend.