Nikita Richardson
January 10, 2016 8:52 am

It seems pretty obvious that having friends can only lead to good things: They support you, they make you laugh, they have your best interest at heart, and they love you for who you are. But what about the physical benefits of friendship? Can a really solid friendship extend your life or reduce stress?

Absolutely!

The folks over at Live Science compiled a scientifically-accurate list of all the positive side effects, so to speak, of having friends and the results are pretty stunning. Here are just a few reasons why your friends — and not apples — may be keeping the doctor away.

Having friends can help you live longer…

A 2010 meta study found that people with strong social ties are much less likely to meet an untimely end. In fact, having strong social ties was twice as effective at extending life than exercise and on par with giving up smoking.

Meanwhile, people without strong social ties are much more likely to suffer from high blood pressure (124 percent more likely!) and experience weight gain in their waist area, which is one of the more dangerous places for fat to accumulate in the human body.

…and may prevent your mind from deteriorating.

One of the greatest threats to elderly people is the onset of dementia, a number of brain diseases that gradually cause sufferers to lose their mental faculties.

Researchers in the Netherlands decided to study whether strong friendship ties might be a protective factor against dementia, studying 2000 senior citizens over three years. They found that elderly people who reported “feeling lonely” were almost 2.5x more likely to suffer from dementia than those who didn’t experience loneliness.

Your friends’ weight may affect your weight.

Has one of your friends recently gained a good amount of weight? The bad news? By association you may gain weight, too. But—and this is a big but—if your friend also loses weight and promotes their own lifestyle changes just enough, you may feel inspired to get it together, too, and lose some weight of your own.

Friendship can help reduce the sting of social rejection.

Kids get bullied all the time, but ever wonder why some kids come out stronger for it while others don’t? The answer may lie in friendship. A 2011 study of fourth graders found that though levels of the stress hormone cortisol were higher in kids who were repeatedly rejected by their peers, those kids who had close friends to comfort them afterwards were less likely to stay stressed compared to kids without good friends.

(Image via NBC.)

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