August 7, 2007
A couple of years ago, there was a study that spoke to the
importance of having good friends. Study participants were
tracked for ten years, and...
"The beneficial effects on survival persisted across the
decade, irrespective of other profound changes in
individuals' lives, including the death of a spouse or
close family members, and the relocation of friends to
other parts of the country. The authors speculate that
friends may influence health behaviours, such as smoking
and drinking, or seeking medical help for troubling
symptoms. Friends may also have important effects on mood,
self esteem, and coping mechanisms in times of difficulty.
An accompanying editorial suggests that feeling connected
to others may provide meaning and purpose that is not only
essential to the human condition, but also to longevity,
conferring a positive physiological effect on the body in
the same way that stress confers a negative effect."
A couple weeks ago, a study suggested that even when it
comes to talking with friends, too much of a good thing can
"Girls who discuss their problems extensively with friends
may be at increased risk of developing depression and
anxiety symptoms, a new study suggests. ... Researchers
suspect that such "co-rumination" causes some girls to
dwell on fleeting problems like boy trouble and party
snubs, leading to persistent feelings of sadness,
hopelessness or worry. On top of this, girls who spend time
hashing out their problems may leave little room for
positive activities that could make them feel better,
according to Dr. Amanda J. Rose, an associate professor of
psychological sciences at the University of
Missouri-Columbia. 'Talking about problems in moderation
definitely is healthy,' Rose told Reuters Health. But, she
said, 'co-rumination seems to be too much of a good thing.'
... Girls should still be encouraged to talk with their
friends about their problems, Rose said, just not to an
excessive degree. She added that parents should also
encourage their daughters to come to them, since they can
help their children put their problems into perspective.
While this study involved only adolescents, Rose noted that
the findings may well apply to adults also."
National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus
Talking with friends is good, and it can be good for a
person's mental health. As with anything, balance and
moderation are key. A person's friends can influence them
greatly, and just as having a friend who is a good listener
can be positive, having a friend "co-ruminate" can be too
much of a good thing.
Friends can influence how we see the world, and how we see
"If your friends and family get fat, chances are you will
too, researchers report in a startling new study that
suggests obesity is 'socially contagious' and can spread
easily from person to person. The large, federally funded
study found that to be true even if your loved ones lived
far away. Social ties seemed to play a surprisingly strong
role, even more than genes are known to do. 'We were
stunned to find that friends who are hundreds of miles away
have just as much impact on a person's weight status as
friends who are right next door,' said co-author James
Fowler of the University of California, San Diego. The
study found a person's chances of becoming obese went up 57
percent if a friend did, 40 percent if a sibling did and 37
percent if a spouse did. In the closest friendships, the
risk almost tripled. Researchers think it's more than just
people with similar eating and exercise habits hanging out
together. Instead, it may be that having relatives and
friends who become obese changes one's idea of what is an
acceptable weight. Despite their findings, the researchers
said people should not sever their relationships. 'There is
a ton of research that suggest that having more friends
makes you healthier,' Fowler said. 'So the last thing that
you want to do is get rid of any of your friends.'"
"So the last thing that you want to do is get rid of any of
You can help your friends stay healthier (mentally and
physically) just by being a good friend, just as having
good friends can positively influence your health.
That said, what you choose to do and talk about when you
are with your friends can determine how healthy your
friendship is. While one good friend wouldn't intentionally
encourage unhealthy habits in another, one might not think
to encourage healthy habits if it is not something you
usually do together.
"One of the hardest things about keeping a commitment to be
physically active is staying motivated. Friends can help.
... If you're making excuses not to exercise, consider
inviting a friend to join you. Having a regular partner can
make all the difference in motivating you to pursue sports
such as swimming, golf, tennis and biking. Ask someone who
is genuinely eager and willing to make a commitment. A
friend or partner who goes along because you've twisted
their arm will usually find an excuse not to turn up. It's
probably wise to choose someone with a similar fitness
level. It's tough to be the one who is always struggling to
keep up. However, it can be inspiring to learn from someone
who really knows what he is doing -- and can gently push
you to go farther or faster. ... Find out what activities
your close friends and work colleagues enjoy, and make a
few dates to see whether you enjoy doing them together. ...
Choose something you can do easily and spontaneously.
Expensive activities that require elaborate equipment or
driving to a special location (e.g., skiing, water skiing)
are not typically the best choice for regular exercise. ...
If you can't find a willing friend or family member, join a
class. You'll feel committed to attend the class sessions,
and you're likely to meet a buddy you can keep exercising
with once the term ends."
Questions of the Week:
What role do your friends play in your life as you decide
what is considered healthy behavior? What influence do you
have in the lives of your friends? How can you be a good
listener without "co-ruminating" when your friends need to
talk? What can you do to encourage healthy choices within
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum