Friendships Improves Health & Happiness At Old Age
The latest research recorded in the journal Personal Relationships shows that having supportive friendships in old age is stronger predict to well-being than having strong family connections.
In the first study, involving more than 270,000 people in nearly 100 countries, the author, William Chopik discovered that both family and friend relationships were associated with better health and happiness overall.
But at advanced ages, the benefits remained only for people who reported strong friendships.
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Chopik who’s the assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University said it wasn’t just important to have friends, but the quality of those friendships also mattered.
The study further shows that when people said their friends were a source of strain, they reported having more chronic illnesses.
But that was not the case for people who reported strain from their spouses and children. When their friends were a source of support, people were happier.
According to Chopik, unlike our family, we can choose our friends.
“A few studies show that we often enjoy our time with friends more than with family,” Chopik said.
“We do leisurely things with friends, whereas family events are often serious or maybe a little monotonous.”
The benefits of having close friends may also be stronger for older people because, at that point, those friendships have stood the test of time.
“You have kept those people around because they have made you happy, or at least contributed to your wellbeing in some way,” he said.
“Across our lives, we let the more superficial friendships fade, and we’re left with the really influential ones.”
Chopik also noted that the power of friendship on physical and mental health is often ignored in research—especially in older people, where relationships with spouses and children are often considered more important.
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While it’s true that family members are often the people who provide caregiving support to the elderly, he says this can also create a sense of obligation.
These relationships are certainly beneficial and often vital, Chopik added. But they may not provide as much joy as those with long-time friends do.
The researcher did not dismiss the fact that some people can share powerful friendships with their siblings, spouses, children and other family members.
Chopik said that’s positive as well but “the general point is that the more support, the more positive interactions, the better.
“The important thing is having people you can rely on, for the good times as well as the bad,” he concluded.