|Basic InformationLatest News|How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?Healthy Heart in 20s, Better Brain in 40s?Health Tip: Getting Too Much Sun?Sunscreen Application Doesn't Provide Complete Body CoverHealth Tip: Protect Your Eyes During SummerHealth Tip: Check the Water Before SwimmingFlip-flops: Fun in the Sun, but Tough on FeetSound Sleep May Help You Junk the Junk FoodWhen Opinions Threaten FriendshipsBetter Diet, Longer Life?Health Tip: If Lifestyle Interferes With SleepDocs Should Counsel Even Healthy People on Diet, Exercise, Experts SayDaily Jolt of Java May Bring Longer LifeHealth Tip: When Air Quality is PoorKeep Your Summer Cookouts SafeMany Parts of the World Lack Soap for Hand-WashingHealth Tip: Yoga Before BedGetting Over GuiltHealth Tip: When Summer Heat Gets IntenseDon't Let Summer Strain Your BackFor Many, Friends Are Key to Happiness in Old AgeCould a High IQ Mean a Longer Life?Presence of Smartphone Cuts Available Cognitive CapacityProtect Your Skin From the Summer SunHealth Tip: Create a Food-and-Activity JournalHow to Dodge Summertime ThreatsHealth Tip: Basic Beach SafetyWallpaper May Breed Toxins: StudyHealth Tip: Are You Well Enough to Travel?Can Smartphone Use Bring on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?Health Tip: Want Healthier Lungs?Tips to Curb Nighttime EatingExtreme Heat in Southwest a Deadly ThreatMany Americans May Be Taking Too Much Vitamin DHow to Beat Jet Lag This Summer VacationAmericans Want to Be Fit, But Most Don't Put in the EffortWith Climate Change, More Deadly Heatwaves Will StrikeAre U.S. Teens Now as Inactive as 60-Year-Olds?Summer Fun Is Not Without HazardsHappy Marriage, Healthier SpousesHave Scientists Created a Safe, Sun-Free Tan?Could You Spot Bed Bugs in a Hotel Room?Health Tip: Help Prevent Skin CancerNighttime Airport Noise May Raise Heart RisksHealth Tip: Prepare for a Safe Road TripCould Your Breakfast Cloud Your Judgment?Stay Safe as Summer Temps SoarWith Summer Sun Comes Heightened Skin Cancer RiskSLEEP: Weekend Sleep Changes Adversely Affect Health OutcomesGuard Against This Little-Known Swimming DangerLinksBook Reviews
For Many, Friends Are Key to Happiness in Old Age
by By Alan MozesHealthDay Reporter
Updated: Jun 29th 2017
THURSDAY, July 29, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- As you age, the friends you keep wield an ever-greater impact on your health and sense of happiness, new research reveals.
They may even outstrip family in terms of the sway they have over you, according to the pair of new studies.
Lead investigator William Chopik cited several reasons why friendships might pack a bigger punch than blood relationships when it comes to influencing health and well-being.
"We spend leisure time with friends. We freely choose to continue relationships with friends," said Chopik, an assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University.
If the friendships last until older adulthood, "clearly these are good friendships," he added.
"As we age, we prune away at some of the friendships that are more superficial and acquaintance-like," he said. That means that as older adults, "we're left with the ones that are deeper and make us happy," Chopik explained.
In contrast, he said, family interactions can be very serious or monotonous, and those relationships are harder to leave.
The study findings stem from two surveys that, in total, asked almost 280,000 people about their relationships, their happiness and their health.
First, Chopik reviewed responses regarding thoughts on friendship, family, health, happiness and satisfaction that were collected by the World Values Survey. More than 271,000 males and females across almost 100 countries participated, ranging in age from 15 to 99.
Chopik found that people who placed more importance on friendship and family tended to say they were happier, more satisfied and healthier than those who didn't.
But older participants indicated that only their friendships loomed large as reliably strong predictors of how happy and healthy they felt.
This rising impact of friendship occurs gradually, Chopik said. "I would say the changes begin around age 30 (or) 40, and then peak for ages 50 to 60, and remain large throughout the rest of life," he said.
A second smaller survey involved roughly 7,500 American seniors, average age 68, enrolled in the Health And Retirement Study.
The participants were asked about the support and/or strain they experienced with their friends and family members, including spouses, children and other immediate family. All were also asked to indicate how "satisfied" they felt, as an indicator of overall well-being.
The onset of eight chronic health issues was also noted. Those included high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, lung disease, heart disease, mental health concerns, arthritis/rheumatism and stroke.
Chopik found that friendships had a clear impact -- both positive and negative -- on a senior's health and satisfaction levels. Among family members, only a spouse or child exerted a similar influence.
However, only friendships -- specifically, strained friendships -- appeared to be associated with an increased risk for chronic illness, the study found.
While the findings aren't conclusive, they suggest that good friendships are a worthwhile investment, the researchers said.
Jamila Bookwala, a professor of psychology at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., expressed little surprise with the findings.
"Increasingly, researchers have found that friendships are key to health and well-being in general and especially as we age," she said.
"My research has shown, for example, that having a friend as a confidant is key to better well-being at a time of the death of a spouse," Bookwala said. "Family members as confidants did not have the same protective effect."
Why? Friendship is a choice, Bookwala agreed, while family is not. And that choice conveys a sense of "personal control," which is important for health, she said.
In addition, friends tend to be of a similar age. "Thus, friends are more likely to share experiences and similar life challenges," said Bookwala.
"This can mean receiving more acceptance and understanding from friends, and also advice that is more relatable, meaningful, and effective," she said. This is especially true for older adults whose relatives are likely younger, she added.
The findings were published in the June issue of Personal Relationships.
There's more on relationships and health at the American Society on Aging.
This article: Copyright © 2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.