New research by the University of North Carolina examined the results of four different health studies to establish how close relationships affect people’s health at different stages of their life.
Researchers determined the relationship between a person’s health and social interactions by comparing the number and quality of their family members, friends and acquaintances with their BMI, abdominal weight, blood pressure and signs of inflammation.
After a year of analysis, the findings revealed that the fewer friendshipsa person has, the poorer their health. While those with more social connections have better health and show less signs of physical stress.
According to lead author and sociologist Kathleen Mullan Harris, her research shows that friendships are especially important for physical health in teenagers and the elderly.
“In adolescence, social isolation is equivalent to the effects of getting no exercise,” she said. “The lack of social connections in old age is equivalent to having diabetes, in terms of increasing hypertension.”
So when it comes to your social circle, the bigger the better, as Harris says every social connection gives an added beneficial effect to your health.