Good quality friendships are the key to a longer life, research finds

Whether it's your best friend, a close family member or your favourite hairdresser, there's nothing like a good chat to lift your spirits and as it turns out, those bonds could have a huge effect on our mental and physical health.

According to The Irish Independent, a number of studies carried out over the past 40 years have indicated that good social relationships may contribute to a reduction in abdominal obesity, better lung function and even a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

Some researchers even claim that our relationships could be more important than diet and exercise when it comes to overall health and wellbeing.

A 2010 study carried out at Brigham Young University found that having a good network of friends and family members could improve a person's odds of survival by up to 50 per cent.

What's more, researchers claimed that not having these kinds of relationships can have them same effect as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Meanwhile a study conducted by the US health provider Kaiser Permanente, surveyed over 9,000 women diagnosed with stages 1-4 invasive breast cancer.

Participants were asked a number of questions about their social lives, including the quality of relationships with friends, family, partners and colleagues.

Based on their answers, the women were then divided into three groups – 'socially isolated', 'moderately integrated' and 'socially integrated'.

20 years later, researchers checked in with the participants and found that the 'socially integrated' women were significantly less likely to have passed away from their battle with breast cancer than those who were deemed 'socially isolated'.

The risk of reoccurrence was also greatly reduced in women who said they has a quality network of friends. 

Head researcher, Candyce H Kroenke, said: "It is well established that women who have more social ties generally, including those with breast cancer, have a lower risk of death overall."

"Our findings demonstrate the beneficial influence of women's social ties on breast cancer, including recurrence and breast cancer death."

What's more, an earlier study carried out by the same team, found that laughing and enjoying quality time with friends could help patients deal with some of the physical symptoms of cancer.  

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