The Health Benefits of Male Friendships
From on-screen bromances to buddy comedies, male friendships play a big role in many movies. But they’re even more important in real life. Social support is associated with staying healthier and living longer. And the benefits can be long-lasting.
In one eye-opening study, researchers followed more than 200 males from boyhood through early adulthood. On average, men who had spent more time with friends as kids had a lower risk for high blood pressure and obesity in their 30s.
Good friends = better health
Friends enrich your life and enhance your health in multiple ways. For one thing, if your friends lead healthy lifestyles, they may encourage you to do the same. Think of it as positive peer pressure. A study of more than 600 men found that those with health-conscious friends and coworkers tended to have healthier habits themselves.
A strong social network also helps fend off loneliness. When you’re lonely, you feel disconnected from others, whether you’re by yourself or in a crowd. If loneliness becomes an ongoing issue, it can take a toll on your body.
Lonely people have an increased risk of developing long-term health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. They may also have a weakened immune system, which makes them susceptible to infections. Research shows that loneliness even increases the risk of dying prematurely.
Plus, loneliness and social isolation have been linked to depression. Some men feel sad and hopeless when depressed. Others feel angry or aggressive. Depression may also cause symptoms such as tiredness and loss of interest in daily life. When you’re depressed, it’s harder to muster the energy and motivation to take care of your health.
Tips for building friendships
In contrast, social support helps boost your overall well-being. But what if you’re running a little low on friends? Here’s how to restock your supply:
Make a list of people you already know who are positive and supportive. Interact with at least one person on your list every day, whether in person, by phone, or online.
Take a hobby-related class. It’s an opportunity to meet people with shared interests.
Volunteer for a good cause. Helping others is a proven way to combat loneliness.
Join a recreational sports league. You’ll meet teammates while you get exercise.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by loneliness or depression, seek help from a mental health professional. It’s not just your happiness at stake. It’s your health, too.