4 Reasons Why Friends Are Important

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If you are dealing with social anxiety disorder (SAD), you may find it difficult to make and keep friends. This issue may be so severe that you avoid friendships altogether.

Although you may convince yourself that you don't need friends to get along, there are many good reasons to want to have friends. Here are some of the arguments in support of friendship for people with SAD.

Risks of Social Isolation

There is a huge amount of evidence showing people who experience loneliness during a period of their life tend to be more likely to have worse health later down the line.

A groundbreaking 1979 study of 7,000 people reported that the risk of death more than doubled for people who were disconnected from others, compared to those with strong friendships. Researchers went on to say that even if they lived unhealthy lifestyles (think smoking and not exercising), people with close social ties lived longer than those with no social ties but healthier living habits.

Since this study, scientists have connected social isolation to a range of health issues—depression, substance abuse, heart disease, and even cancer.

Benefits of Friendship

Our friendships can have a tremendous impact on our health in a variety of ways. According to a 2010 review that examined data from more than 309,000 people, a lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50%. That’s nearly twice as beneficial as exercising in terms of decreasing your odds of premature death.

Friendship and social support are also linked to better physical health outcomes, like lower rates of heart disease. One study showed that women with strong friendships display a lower risk for heart disease (and high blood pressure and diabetes) than those without.

Here are some reasons why experts think friendship improves your health.

Encourage Healthy Behaviors

Friends and social support are especially important during times of crisis and turbulence. If you find yourself going through a hard time, having a friend to help you through can make the transition easier.

Your friendships also encourage healthy behaviors that can have a direct impact on your well-being. For example, your friends might encourage you to eat better, exercise, and get more sleep. It's much easier to get out and stay active when you have a friend by your side.

That friend may also suggest activities that you would not have considered on your own—thus, pushing you outside your comfort zone to challenge your anxiety.

Help Build Your Confidence

Everyone has self-doubts and insecurities every now and then. But having friends plays a key role in shaping your self-esteem, or how much you appreciate and life yourself.

Supportive friends can help you feel more confident by offering praise and reassurance when you're feeling unsure. They'll shine a light on just how amazing you are and how much you have to offer others.

Help You Beat Stress

Everyone goes through stressful events. If we know we have people we can count on or that you can turn to, you may be less likely to even perceive it as stressful. 

Friends can also help you cope with stressful situations. According to one small study, when children hang out with their friends during a stressful situation, they produce less of the stress hormone cortisol, which can have a calming effect.

As the song goes: “We all need somebody to lean on.”

A lack of friends can leave you feeling lonely and without support, which makes you vulnerable to other problems such as depression and substance abuse.

Push You To Be Your Best

Friends can also provide a positive influence. If you make friends with people who are generous with their time, help others, ambitious, or family-oriented, you are more likely to develop those values yourself.

Great friends have the power to mold you into the-best-version-of-yourself. They see you and love you for who you truly are. They encourage you and push you to do better and be the person you want to be—your "ideal self."

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