INCREASE YOUR STRESS
“If you engage in physical activity with your friends, it’s probably more easy to become a habit for you,” says Dr Ann-Marie Creaven, who adds, “it might be easy to take up a new hobby by yourself, but you’ll be more likely to keep going if you have friends with you.”
That’s great if you all your friends are the sporty, healthy-eating kind. But it becomes problematic — “if, for example your social norm is going for pints every night,” says Dr Creaven. That’s why it’s worth trying to examine the circles of social influence you are enmeshed in. “If your friendships are with people who are obese, you have a 70pc likelihood of being obese,” warns Dr Eddie Murphy.
THEY CAN SAVE YOUR MARRIAGE
Having a strong network of supportive friends helps married couples weather the hard times together, according to a paper published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, which found that “spouses who reported being more satisfied with the availability of friends and family” had lower levels of cortisol in their blood during times of marital conflict.
According to Lisa Neff, who led the study, having a satisfying social network, “buffers spouses from the harmful physiological effects of everyday marital conflicts.”
THEY PROVIDE A SENSE OF PURPOSE
It’s not just what friends provide for us, but what we provide for them that does us good, explains Dr Creaven.
“Friendships are an opportunity for you to be a good friend to someone else... by doing something kind for somebody else you are strengthening a friendship and you are also often boosting your own sense of self worth,” she explains.
“Being there for somebody else, so long as you are not overburdened by them, can also be good for your health and well-being. It gives you a sense of purpose and you see someone who is important to you becoming happier because of it which give you a positive feeling.”
QUALITY COUNTS MORE THAN QUANTITY
Not all friendships are equal when it comes to our health. “Good friendships are not when people are enmeshed or too close, or too distant,” says Dr Eddie Murphy. “There