We all know that eating right, exercising, drinking lots of water (not excessive amounts of alcohol), and not smoking increase your health and your chances of living longer overall. But let’s be honest–how many of us actually do all those things, all of the time? More often than not, I choose the cheeseburger over the salad at the cafeteria and most of my exercise comes from climbing the stairs between classes and walking around the mall.
But now, more and more evidence shows that while taking care of your body is important, there’s something else that contributes to a longer life: strong friendships. A series of studies published in an article by the New York Times reveal the healthy impacts friendships have. For example, in a ten-year-long study in Australia, researchers found that older people who had lots of friends were less likely to die during the course of the study than those with fewer friends. Also, a Harvard study showed that strong social ties contributed to increased brain activity in older age. Furthermore, it’s been found that people with strong friendships get fewer colds.
Since friends prolong our lives, does that mean I don’t have to work out anymore? I can just take a walk with my friends (to the bar) to get my exercise instead. And maybe eating healthy doesn’t matter so much and a chocolate-fudge sundae is instantly good for me as long as I’m sharing it with my girls. And maybe, just maybe, if I’m passing that cigarette to a friend, it won’t have the same effect on my lungs!
Ok, so I know I can’t throw all health concerns out the window, but in the long run, having close friendships is a lot more fullfilling than spending hours on the elliptical, and it has healthy benefits. Maybe it’s time we all rethink our priorities.