How friends help — and hurt — your health
Close friends do more for you than just take you to the airport and help you move. A slew of studies show pals can give you health boosts like reducing your heart disease risk and warding off Alzheimer’s. But buddies can bring health downsides, too, especially if that friendship is more stressful than soothing, or if your friend has contagiously bad habits. Where do your friends fit in?
Live long and prosper
In one study, 70-year-old Australian men with larger social circles lived longer over the course of the study than men with fewer friends. Friends also keep your mind sharp as you age, according to a Harvard study.
A solid amount of bro time can reduce heart attack risk, according to one Swedish study that focused on male friendship.
One University of California–Los Angeles study set out to see if arguing and playing competitive sports boosts levels of molecules called cytokines, which cause inflammation and can lead to plaque buildup in the arteries. Sure enough, negative interactions like arguing did lead to a spike, but playing sports didn’t. So try gathering your Incredible Hulk-like friends for a game of Frisbee instead of chatting over coffee.
When pals add pounds
You’re more likely to gain weight when your friends do, one study from the New England Journal of Medicine found in 2007. One reason could be our tendency to “mirror” the eating habits of friends, another study suggests. It works the other way, too, though — friends can help you drop pounds if you’re working together toward the same goal.