Friendship Can Help Protect Your Heart, The Atlantic Reports
For decades, scientists have known that friendship is important for emotional health – people with a large group of friends and acquaintances experience less stress, loneliness, and depression. Now, The Atlantic reports, a new study shows that social connections can also help keep your heart healthy.
This study, published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, focused on a group of international students who arrived in Canada for a study program. The students had no friends or family in the area, and no romantic relationships. Over a five-month period, the students answered questions about their social lives (reporting how many people they interacted with per week) and had their heart rates monitored. The students who made more friends over the time period had higher heart-rate variability rates, while those with fewer friends had lower heart-rate variability rates. Low heart rate variability has been linked to poor health, including a greater risk for cardiac disease.
Over the years, other studies have linked social interaction to heart health. In a Swedish study, people with the fewest social contacts were found to have a 50% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases. And the American Heart Association found that, after a heart attack, patients with low social support were more likely to report depression symptoms and low quality of life.
Our team at FCCI agrees. Brenda Murphy, Nurse Practitioner, likes to refer to Rumi’s quote as a reminder of how important friendship can be in health, “Be a lamp, a life boat, a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd.”