Tags: friendships | in-person | face-to-face | virtual | health | mental | physical

Face-to-Face Friendships Best for Our Health

friends chatting and drinking coffee outside

By    |   Wednesday, 29 May 2024 12:04 PM EDT

Americans are spending less face-to-face time with their friends. According to the American Time Use Survey, the average time spent with friends has been slashed in half, from 60 minutes a day in 2003 to only 34 minutes daily in 2019. Experts say this “friendship recession” could have negative health benefits.

Humans are social animals and being surrounded by friends lowers the risk of many diseases, including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s diseases and even cancer, according to The Washington Post,

A gerontological Japanese study found that men who spent time with friends only a few times a year had a whopping 30% increased mortality risk than those who socialized more frequently.

“Pretty much any way you cut it, any way you measure it, being socially connected is associated with better health,” says neuroscientist Julianne Holt-Lunstad, of Brigham Young University.

Research has also demonstrated that face-to-face time with friends and relatives helps the neural activity of our brains. Holding hands, hugs, and other friendly skin-to skin contact helps us sleep better, as well as reduce stress, according to a 2024 review. Friendly touch reduces pain, even in people undergoing painful medical procedures or who suffer from Parkinson’s disease.

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A study conducted during the pandemic found that meeting face-to-face improved immune function. The same benefits were not noted when the study subjects interacted with their friends online. So, while texting or meeting friends on social media can keep the relationship going, it doesn’t form that deep connection that comes from meeting in person and using all of your senses to interact, including smell which also has been shown to reduce stress. European researchers found that when volunteers were subjected to weak electric shocks, sniffing their loved one’s T-shirts prior to the experience helped them stay calmer.

A study from Cambridge University lead by psychologist Eric Kim, a professor from the University of British Columbia, found that people who had in-person contact with friends at least twice a week enjoyed better physical and mental health benefits. Calling or texting didn’t bring similar benefits, said Kim.

“Even if you think you are a loner and don’t usually prefer the company of others, the fact is, your brain and body spend less time in the fight or flight mode when we are around others, especially those we trust,” notes Judy Ho, a clinical and forensic neuropsychologist and author of the just-released book, The New Rules of Attachment.

“Genuine connections with others help foster rest and relaxation, as well as creativity. They also boost the feel-good chemicals like oxytocin, which helps us to bond, serotonin, which boost feelings of well-being, and dopamine, which increases our motivation and reduces the risk of depression,” says Ho. Having strong social ties also helps our problem-solving ability, promotes healthier lifestyle choices, and makes life more meaningful.

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Ho offers these tips:

• Plan social activities around shared interests. Once a week, get together with cherished friends to pursue a common interest whether it’s walking around a park, taking a yoga class or some other hobby.

• Create a birthday and special dates calendar for those closest to you. Mark your calendar to include the dates or birthdays or special events for those in your social circle. This gives you an opportunity to connect with them and show you care.

• Do something that contributes to the well-being of others. Plan to volunteer at a local shelter or non-profit, either alone or with others. Contributing to something bigger than yourself can help you meet like-minded people for quality connections and provides time for you to bond with important others in your life.

© 2024 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.

Americans are spending less face-to-face time with their friends. According to the American Time Use Survey, the average time spent with friends has been slashed in half, from 60 minutes a day in 2003 to only 34 minutes daily in 2019. Experts say this "friendship recession"...
friendships, in-person, face-to-face, virtual, health, mental, physical
Wednesday, 29 May 2024 12:04 PM
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