|Having a great set of friends that can inspire you to be authentic and can boost your self-esteem is one of the biggest yet underrated needs to have a healthy, happy, and productive life. / Photo by Viacheslav Iakobchuk via 123RF|
Having a great set of friends that can inspire you to be authentic and can boost your self-esteem is one of the biggest yet underrated needs to have a healthy, happy, and productive life. A new study from the American Psychological Association agreed with previous studies that having close friends can truly affect a person’s quality of life for the better.
Healthy social connections will not only give people pleasure but they can also influence their long-term health in many ways, and it may be as powerful and significant as getting adequate sleep, a good diet, and not smoking cigarettes. Studies in the past have already shown that people who have social support from family, friends, and their community are happier, less lonely, and have fewer health problems.
According to American business magazine Forbes, a recent wave of research illustrates high levels of loneliness in the United States—nearly half of Americans always or sometimes feel alone (46%) or left out (47%) while 54% of them claim that they always or sometimes feel that no one knows them well enough. Also, as reported by American Health Rankings, a partnership of the United Health Foundation and the American Public Health Association that releases two yearly reports, one on the health of the general population in the 50 US states plus a senior report on the population aged 65 and older in each state, frequent mental distress that is connected to loneliness has been reported by 12.4% of the American population, claiming that they did not feel good mentally over the past month.
Loneliness is a very serious problem, and it is not only happening in the United States but all over the world. For instance, in Japan, more than half a million people under 40 have reported to never leave their house or interact with anyone for at least six months. Scientists claim that loneliness is very emotionally painful and it can lead to psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and even hallucinatory delirium.
The Importance of Quality Relationships
Dr. Michelle Harris, the author of the study and a researcher from the University of Texas at Austin, explained that for the first time in the behavioral science field, they have systematically answered a key question in the field of self-esteem research, which essentially asks whether a person’s social relationship influences their self-esteem development and vice versa. This new study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
The team analyzed 52 studies involving more than 47,000 participants and looked at either the effect of self-esteem on social relationships over time or the reverse effect of it. The different studies they analyzed were published between 1992 and 2016 that included multiple countries such as the US, Switzerland, Germany, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, Greece, Russia, and Sweden. The participants were predominately white, some were Hispanic or Latino, and the remaining were of mixed ethnicities.
The authors of the research found out that positive social relationships, social support, and social acceptance can help shape the development of self-esteem of people over time across the ages of 4 to 76. The researchers also found a significant effect in the reverse direction. Earlier studies had come up with inconsistent findings, but this new one had supported the classic and contemporary theories of the influence of self-esteem on social connections and the influence of social connections on self-esteem, loneliness, and overall quality of life. Moreover, having a great sense of social support from a few friends and loved ones can also curb their feelings of loneliness as they grow old and make them less susceptible to psychiatric disorders.
There is a reciprocal link between self-esteem and social relationships that imply that the effect of a positive feedback loop accumulates over time and could become substantial as how people go through life. Furthermore, the researchers claimed that positive relationships with parents may also cultivate self-esteem in children that can lead to more positive relationships with their peers during adolescence and can further strengthen their self-esteem as they grow into adulthood. Meanwhile, when self-esteem or the quality of a person’s social relationships is low, it can negatively impact other factors and set off a downward spiral.
Having a good quality relationship with friends and family truly matters, according to Harvard Medical School’s Health Publishing. Aside from boosting one’s self-esteem, it can also have biological advantages. For instance, one study discovered that middle-aged women who were in satisfying marriages or marital-type relationships had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to women with less satisfying marriages. Furthermore, other studies have linked disappointing or negative interactions with family and friends that can lower the person’s immune system to poorer health and quality of life.
Other Benefits of Healthy Relationships
- Less stress. According to the Northwestern Medical School, being in a committed relationship or just by having a healthy stable friendship, can lessen the production of cortisol, which is a stress hormone. This suggests that married or paired people are less likely to be responsive to psychological stress and that the emotional support that comes with having a partner or good friends can be a great buffer against stress.
- Healthier behavior. Healthy relationships and connections can set the perfect tone for an overall healthy lifestyle. Friends and family members can be the ones to encourage eating a healthy diet, continuing to exercise, or ceasing the smoking habit. People are also more likely to listen to them. It is indeed easier to take on healthy behaviors when people are surrounded by positive influences.
- Greater sense of purpose. It is perfectly natural for humans to want to feel wanted and needed; it makes them feel like they are part of something bigger. Being in a loving relationship, whether with a partner, a friend, or a loved one can give a person a sense of well-being and purpose in life.
- Longer life. One research suggested that having healthy social relationships can make a bigger impact on avoiding early death than taking blood pressure medication. Everyone has their own needs and desires when it comes to relationships since it can be a way to cope with stress and anxiety, and it is also a way for them to live a healthy and meaningful life. Having at least one good friend that is trustworthy can help a person walk through issues in their lives and it can definitely have a positive effect on their health and well-being.