Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 4th 2017 Contents A22 body & soul
guardian.co.tt Tuesday, July 4, 2017
As you age, the friends you keep wield an ev-
er-greater impact on your health and sense of
happiness, new research reveals.
They may even outstrip family in terms of the sway
they have over you, according to the pair of new stud-
ies. Lead investigator William Chopik cited several
reasons why friendships might pack a bigger punch
than blood relationships when it comes to influencing
health and well-being.
"We spend leisure time with friends. We freely
choose to continue relationships with friends," said
Chopik, an assistant professor of psychology at Mich-
igan State University.
If the friendships last until older adulthood, "clearly
these are good friendships," he added.
"As we age, we prune away at some of the friend-
ships that are more superficial and acquaintance-like,"
he said. That means that as older adults, "we're left
with the ones that are deeper and make us happy,"
In contrast, he said, family interactions can be very
serious or monotonous, and those relationships are
harder to leave.
The study findings stem from two surveys that,
in total, asked almost 280,000 people about their
relationships, their happiness and their health.
First, Chopik reviewed responses regarding
thoughts on friendship, family, health, happiness and
satisfaction that were collected by the World Values
Survey. More than 271,000 males and females across
almost 100 countries participated, ranging in age from
15 to 99. Chopik found that people who placed more
importance on friendship and family tended to say
they were happier, more satisfied and healthier than
those who didn't.But older participants indicated that
only their friendships loomed large as reliably strong
predictors of how happy and healthy they felt.
This rising impact of friendship occurs gradually,
Chopik said. "I would say the changes begin around
age 30 (or) 40, and then peak for ages 50 to 60, and
remain large throughout the rest of life," he said.
A second smaller survey involved roughly 7,500
American seniors, average age 68, enrolled in the
Health And Retirement Study.
The participants were asked about the support
and/or strain they experienced with their friends
and family members, including spouses, children
and other immediate family. All were also asked to
indicate how "satisfied" they felt, as an indicator of
The onset of eight chronic health issues was also
noted. Those included high blood pressure, diabe-
tes, cancer, lung disease, heart disease, mental health
concerns, arthritis/rheumatism and stroke.
Chopik found that friendships had a clear im-
pact-both positive and negative- on a senior's health
and satisfaction levels. Among family members, only
a spouse or child exerted a similar influence.
However, only friendships-specifically, strained
friendships- appeared to be associated with an in-
creased risk for chronic illness, the study found.
While the findings aren't conclusive, they suggest
that good friendships are a worthwhile investment,
the researchers said.
Jamila Bookwala, a professor of psychology at La-
fayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, expressed
little surprise with the findings.
"Increasingly, researchers have found that friend-
ships are key to health and well-being in general and
especially as we age," she said.
"My research has shown, for example, that having
a friend as a confidant is key to better well-being
at a time of the death of a spouse," Bookwala said.
"Family members as confidants did not have the same
Why? Friendship is a choice, Bookwala agreed,
while family is not. And that choice conveys a sense
of "personal control," which is important for health,
In addition, friends tend to be of a similar age.
"Thus, friends are more likely to share experiences
and similar life challenges," said Bookwala.
"This can mean receiving more acceptance and
understanding from friends, and also advice that is
more relatable, meaningful, and effective," she said.
This is especially true for older adults whose relatives
are likely younger, she added.
The findings were published in the June issue of
Personal Relationships. (HealthDay News)
For many, friends are key
to happiness in old age
As you age, the friends you keep wield an ever-greater impact on your health and
sense of happiness, new research reveals.
Links Archive July 3rd 2017 July 5th 2017 Navigation Previous Page Next Page