Friends offer ‘a survival boost’

Did you read the latest research which finds that having a good network of friends and neighbours boosts survival chances by 50%?

Lead researcher of the Brigham Young University team, Julianne Holt-Lundstad says there are many ways in which friends, colleagues and family can boost health and wellbeing. “When someone is connected to a group and feels responsibility for other people, that sense of purpose and meaning translates to taking better care of themselves and taking fewer risks.”

In their study, which looked at over 300,000 people from four continents over a period of seven years, those with the strongest social networks fared best in terms of health outcomes and lifespan. They were nearly twice (1.5 times) as likely to be alive at any given age than those who were lonely. The study included people of all ages and backgrounds, yet the findings remained the same and regardless of initial health status.

The study does point out the importance of face-to-face contact, and not social networking; but as I have written about many times here, those of us who have become part of an online social network based on a shared common interest such as cancer, can testify to the benefits of community. The global friendships and connections I have made through social networking help support and reinforce my commitment to breast cancer advocacy in a way that my friends in “real” life can’t, simply because those friends don’t understand what we have been through.  You know what I mean when I lament lasting effects like “chemo brain”, when my fears of recurrence surface, when I feel down, or feel happy with each cancerversary. Some will say that these aren’t real friendships, but I wouldn’t agree with this. Sure, some of them are fleeting and operate on a superficial level, but the potential for real friendship is certainly there too.  I really care about the health and well being of my online friends.  I would love to be able to meet up with them in “real life”, but geographical considerations doesn’t always make that possible. However, I have been lucky enough to meet up with several Irish bloggers for coffee and while initially, it felt like a kind of blind date, we soon discovered that we had plenty to talk about and much in common in real life. A deeper friendship is certainly possible.

So nurture those friendships everyone..after all your life may just depend on it!