What are the positive effects of friendship

A friend, a good friend: why social contacts are so important to us

Time and again, studies suggest that people with close social relationships are healthier and live longer. Because good friends keep stress away, give self-confidence and even help over trauma. But friendships also have to be cultivated.

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Time to rummage through your own memory for a moment: Who was the first best friend or the first best friend? Which beautiful and ugly experiences did you share with each other? How long did the friendship last - and why did it break up?

And today? Who do you count among your best friends? How deep are the friendships? And what do you do yourself to keep the friendship alive?

Positive effects on health

Questions worth asking; Because most of them would not only confirm subjectively that friendships are important, there are also scientific studies that show that good friends increase physical and mental well-being.

One of the most cited studies on the subject came from a university in Utah a few years ago. They examined whether social contacts have an influence on the risk of death and came to the conclusion that those who were part of a social network had a good chance of living longer.

Another US study found that people with large groups of friends were less likely to be overweight than those with few or no friends. Older people in particular are less likely to have high blood pressure and diabetes if they have good social contacts.

Canadian researchers also found that ten-year-olds who were at higher risk of developing depression were less likely to get the disease if they had a good friend.

Sometimes it helps to take a different perspective: This is how you practice experiencing more joy every day.

Certain areas of the brain are larger and better networked

The brain structure of outgoing people is also different from that of people who are not so socially active. In the former, some areas in the brain are larger and better networked, researchers at Oxford found.

However, the researchers were unable to answer the question of whether the brain has adapted to the many social contacts or, conversely, the sociability stems from a certain brain structure.

It seems indisputable, however, that friends help to a certain extent to stay young. "Because the intensity of life and happiness in life depend heavily on the liveliness and intensity of our relationships," says psychotherapist Wolfgang Krüger in an interview with our editorial team. Loneliness and boredom, on the other hand, "paralyze us".

A few years ago, researchers at the Ruhr University in Bochum demonstrated what Krüger knows from daily practice in experiments with rats. First and foremost, they tested how movement affects the ability to learn (namely positive), but they also found that the effect increases with many social contacts.

That is why, according to Krüger, it is very important to remain curious about your fellow human beings even in old age and to try to make new friends. The reality is mostly different: "By the age of 50, around half of the people have a resigned attitude and no longer have the strength to actively make new friends."

Friendships in childhood are important for later social behavior

If you are lucky, you don't have to woo a lot of friends, you already have some. And if you are even more lucky, you have had it for a long time, possibly since school.

Friendships from kindergarten, on the other hand, are very rare, although the foundation stone for future relationships is laid during this time.

The educational scientist Margaret Blank-Mathieu has summarized in an essay how important early friendships are. Accordingly, friends are important for children to strengthen themselves: They learn to express their feelings and have someone with whom they can immerse themselves in fantasy worlds.

By working with other children, they also realized that they could do something without the help of adults, and that made them more self-confident.

In an argument, they also learned to sometimes assert themselves and sometimes to back off.

Celebrate parties, write letters

The fact that friends from kindergarten are extremely seldom retained is due to the fact that the relationships of three-, four- or five-year-olds are not yet particularly resilient and a move or different schools can already end the friendship.

Later friendships last longer - especially childhood friendships, says psychotherapist Krüger: "You simply have a wealth of shared experiences and situations that you have endured together that lasts a lifetime."

Nevertheless, these friendships must also be cultivated. "Above all, this takes time and creativity," says Krüger, who dealt with the topic in his book "Friendship: begin - improve - shape".

For example, he tries to ask unusual questions at every meeting, such as: "What were your childhood dreams? And how can I help you to fulfill them perhaps now?"

In addition, Krüger recommends to celebrate more parties with friends again and at the end of the year to write a "friend letter" with the experiences of the year.

Sources used:

  • Conversation with the psychotherapist Wolfgang Krüger
  • Pnas.org: "Social relationships and physiological determinants of longevity across the human life span"
  • Gripinfo.ca: "Can friends protect genetically vulnerable children from depression?"
  • Study by the Ruhr University Bochum: "Sociability keeps you mentally fit"
  • Essay by Margarete Blank-Mathieu: "Child friendship: Why do children need friends?"
Note: This article first appeared in 2017 on Friendship Day. On this occasion on July 30th, we are happy to present the text to you again this year.