Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How To Win Friends

And Live A Longer Life:

Researchers are only now starting to pay attention to the importance of friendship and social networks in overall health. A 10-year Australian study found that older people with a large circle of friends were 22 percent less likely to die during the study period than those with fewer friends. A large 2007 study showed an increase of nearly 60 percent in the risk for obesity among people whose friends gained weight. And last year, Harvard researchers reported that strong social ties could promote brain health as we age.

“In general, the role of friendship in our lives isn’t terribly well appreciated,” said Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. “There is just scads of stuff on families and marriage, but very little on friendship. It baffles me. Friendship has a bigger impact on our psychological well-being than family relationships.”

It may be that people with strong social ties also have better access to health services and care. Beyond that, however, friendship clearly has a profound psychological effect. People with strong friendships are less likely than others to get colds, perhaps because they have lower stress levels.
Research suggests the physical proximity of friends doesn't seem correlated (friends you see often v. friends you see rarely) with the benefits. Nor does the research say specifically that the benefits derived from friendship circles need come from face to face interaction, as opposed to Facebook or online social networking.

Speaking of which, I nearly died laughing when I saw this over at Global Sociology, on proper Facebook manners and maintenance of friends.

It makes you realize that despite the simplicity of maintaining hundreds of friendships online, it's actually more cumbersome than it seems. Meaning is easily lost in translation over the internet, especially for those who love irony, sarcasm, etc.

I'll take good conversation with a few good friends in a pub over virtual interaction any day.

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