All friends are friends with benefits if you consider the health and physical upsides of being socially connected. Interaction makes people live longer, happier lives, which is ultimately the reason why parents need to teach kids to share, empathize, and generally not be a dick. Studies show those advantages don’t slow down with age and that parents need super chill parent friends as much, if not more, than kids need playdate buddies. Because of time constraints, being social can feel like a luxury during a child’s early years, but it’s critical for all involved.
Having friends is a family affair. Here’s why it’s crucially important.
Friends Help Kids Manage Their Stress
When kids are bullied it hurts, but it will hurt a hell of a lot less if they have pals to fall back on, a study of fourth-grade boys shows. Researchers found that when kids were victimized by their peers they had elevated salivary cortisol levels, a stress hormone linked to behavior problems in children. However, the effect was weakened the more friends, and better quality friends, children had. Perhaps lone wolves just have a hormonal imbalance.
Friends Lower Blood Pressure, Reduce Swelling, and Decrease Obesity Risk
People with friends have lower blood pressure compared to individuals who are not socially connected, research suggests. The 2015 study pooled data from four separate experiments that included between 863 and 7,889 people, between ages ranged from 12 to 91, and found that in people ages 57 and 91 who felt socially isolated, it more than doubled their risk of high blood pressure. The health impact of loneliness extended to young people as well. Adolescents between the ages 12 and 18 who were socially isolated had a 27 percent increased risk of inflammation compared to kids with friends, compared to a 21 percent risk of inflammation that comes with physical inactivity among teens. Likewise, teens who felt more socially integrated reduced their risk of obesity by 48 percent. Friends are, essentially, aspirin that keeps you from getting fat.
Friends Help You Live Longer
People increase their likelihood of survival by 50 percent when they have stronger social relationships, according to a meta-analysis of 148 studies — which included a total of 308,849 participants. The findings, published in PLOS One, indicate that “the influence of social relationships on the risk of death are comparable with well-established risk factors for mortality such as smoking and alcohol consumption,” study authors write. You and your buddies can drink to that.
Friends Keep Your Mind Sharp
People who maintained social connections into their 70s and 80s slowed their cognitive decline up to 70 percent, a study of 1,138 seniors with dementia shows. That’s pretty far off, but you already can’t find your keys. All the more reason to take a page from your kid and start practicing the friendship part now. If you think it’s hard to make new friends now, just think of how hard it will be in your 70s.
Friends Are Better Than Acquaintances
People who want to be friends with everyone, rather than a few close friendships, experience more social anxiety in young adulthood. A number of other studies similarly suggest that mistaking friendship for a numbers game can offset most of these long-term physical and mental health advantages including data on 271,053 adults. Researchers found that friendships become more important for fending off chronic diseases, but only if they’re good ones.
“Having closer friends is better than having many superficial friends,” study co-author Bill Chopik of Michigan State University told New York Magazine. You and your kid don’t need a squad, no matter what Taylor Swift says. You just need a few people you care about who aren’t each other.