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International Day of Friendship: Lasting friendships affect mental health positively in older adults

The most memorable people in life will be the friends who loved you, when you weren’t very lovable. ~ Anonymous

These words perfectly describe the role a friend plays in one’s life. Friendship entails a mutual relationship of trust, affection and cooperation, and is, often, a blessing in disguise. A good friend can help one overcome all hurdles in life, is there during setbacks and illnesses, and joyfully celebrates one’s achievements and is there in good times.

Good friends play a significant role in promoting one’s overall mental and physical health. Studies have shown that individuals with good friends have a reduced risk of health problems like high blood pressure, depression and unhealthy weight. True friends help increase one’s self-worth, boost one’s happiness, reduce one’s stress levels, help one cope with trauma and difficult situations, and encourage one to avoid or even change unhealthy habits including addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Honoring the beautiful bond of friendship and the role that it plays in one’s life, the United Nations (UN) observes July 30 as the International Day of Friendship every year. Taking the spirit of friendship further, this year, let us pledge to look around and help a friend battle his/her mental health or addiction problems.

Friendship is crucial for better mental health

It is often noted that individuals with smaller social networks and fewer intimate relationships find it harder to handle mental distress or social situations. According to health experts, those who manage to keep their friendships, even through tough times, are better equipped to handle stressful situations. Similarly, people with mental health illnesses are able to recover better when they have good friends.

A recent U.S. study has revealed that compared to stronger family connections, having supportive friends in old age was a greater predictor of good health. While both friendships and family relationships were associated with better health and happiness, having deep friendship bonds were related to better functioning among older adults. The research also indicated that although families are important to maintaining one’s mental health, they come with stressors whereas friendship is considered an unselfish bond that unites two people. Therefore, having good friends was associated with increasingly higher well-being and health during one’s lifespan.

Effect of mental health on friendships

Individuals with mental health problems often deny that they have a problem, tend to avoid any social contact, often isolate themselves and tend to give in to ignorance and prevailing prejudices about such disorders purported by other people. Sometimes, it happens that they recognize that they have a problem too late. Nevertheless, one cannot ignore the fact that just like other illnesses, mental health disorders too can affect friendships.

  • Individuals with mental health problems have smaller social networks and have relatively more family members than friends in their circle.
  • Individuals with a long-lasting mental illness often have relationships with others in a similar situation.
  • Individuals with fewer intimate relationships often find it difficult to manage social situations.

True friendships can make one happier, help ward off loneliness and chronic illness, and provide support. It can play a key role in assisting someone going through from a mental health disorder and overcome the terrible isolation that accompanies it.

There is hope

Although there is no substitute to true and rewarding friendships, those with mental health disorders often find it difficult to share their problems with friends. In times like these, it is important to turn to support groups or consult a mental health professional for help.

A leading behavioral health treatment center, Sovereign Health provides comprehensive treatment for a variety of behavioral health disorders by offering a holistic combination of medications and psychotherapies. Combining the highest level of care with traditional treatment modalities, our state-of-the-art mental health treatment facilities practice experiential therapies in a safe and supportive environment.

For more information about our evidence-based mental health treatment programs or to know about our events, call our 24/7 helpline number 855-969-5557. You can even chat online with our representatives for any further assistance.

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