AMARILLO, Texas(KAMR/KCIT) —Having friends, whether you spend every day together or only call once a month and check in, can make life fun and make us feel supported. Did you know there are health benefits to friendship?
In the world of technology sometimes our kids have difficulty establishing healthy, long-lasting friendships. The benefits of friendships should not be overlooked. People who have friends and close relationships are more satisfied with their lives and less likely to suffer from depression. Friendships can be made and maintained at any age. Romantic relationships have preoccupation with some teens but most of their close relationships are with friends.
· Friendship affects the body and brain. High-quality friendships provide social support and companionship and predict well-being. It protects against mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. It also protects us in part by changing the way we respond to stress. When working on a tough if with a friend our blood pressure is lowered as well as our heart rate than those working alone.
· Risks social isolation. Loneliness increases the risk for heart attack/stroke and premature death. There is significant social disconnection and has worsened since 2012. Even before the pandemic, there was a downward trend in social contact with COVID exacerbating it. Kids with less social support from friends have more anxiety/ depression/ academic adjustment.
· The strength of weak ties. Having a close friend or confidant is undeniably good for teens however also having acquaintances, even with strangers, can give mental health a boost. Minimal social interactions can give us connection and novelty.
· Romance and friends. We tend to see romantic relationships and friendship as separate entities but the two may have more in common than we realize. Chemistry, intimacy, and warmth are the building blocks of close stable friendships. Regular interactions with others make us happier. Research suggests symbiosis between romantic and platonic relationships suggesting one benefits the other. Skills developed in friendships can be carried forward into healthier romantic relationships.
· Supporting healthy friendships. We as parents need to promote platonic social connections with our teens. The pandemic taught us that our kids need this face-to-face interaction with others for well-rounded mental health. Having a balance with friends and boy/girls friends is important. We as parents need to model this as well as encourage it.
We have a lot to learn about how and why social connections support health and well-being. What we do know is that if we don’t interact regularly things can go remarkably bad. It still needs more study but there is magic in these interactions keeping us healthy and sane.