Friends are relatives you make for yourself. ― Eustache Deschamps
Famed anthropologist Margaret Mead was once asked, what do consider to be a sign of advanced civilization, over the course of your research? Instead of mentioning development of certain tools or other advances, she described the finding of a fossilized skeleton￼ with a shattered femur that had healed. She reported that it was the type of severe injury such that no one could have made it to the safety and shelter of the cave where it was found, without being carried or dragged by another person. Such injuries were fatal. ￼She defined looking out for the best interest of another person as her definition of advanced civilization￼.
Today: Friendships seem to be especially helpful for the heart, metaphorically and literally.￼
According to an increasing body of medical research, close friendships are good for your health￼￼. A three-year Swedish study of more than 13,600 men and women found that having few or no close friends increased the risk of having a first-time heart attack by about 50 percent. A two-year study of more than 500 women with suspected coronary artery disease showed similar results. Women who reported the lowest levels of social support were twice as likely to die during the study. The women who enjoyed close support were not only more likely to be alive after two years, they also had lower rates of high blood pressure and diabetes and were less likely to have excessive abdominal fat, which is related to a host of medical problems￼.
As first reported in the Journal of the National Medical Association in 2009, friendships and other types of social support can help relieve stress, a well-known contributor to heart disease. Among other things, stress can encourage inflammation in arteries, a first step toward atherosclerosis (clogged arteries). Some studies have found that people who enjoy close support from friends and family actually have fewer inflammatory chemicals in their blood. The link between social ties and inflammation seems to be especially marked in older people.
When stress does appear, friends can encourage healthy reactions. People who lack strong social support tend to have highly anxious reactions to scary or worrisome situations. Their hearts pound and their blood pressure may soars. But friends can help keep the heart on a more even keel. A study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that young men and women discussing rough patches in their lives had a lower pulse and blood pressure when they had a supportive friend at their side.
Literally having a friend next to you is good for your mental and physical health.￼