Turns Out Your BFFs Can Literally Make You Healthier As You Age

by Julie Scagell
Originally Published: 
Cultura/ Seb Oliver

Our friendships can aid in better memory and “cognitive aging”

Everyone knows how important friendships are in our lives. They get us through the good, bad, and ugly of any situation and make the ride so much more fun in the process. What’s even better — it turns out these lifelines may also have health benefits as we age.

Researchers at Northwestern University recently published a study in the Public Library of Science and found some elderly people, or “SuperAgers” as they were called, attributed their good health to their “busy social lives.”

Researchers have been studying this group of SuperAgers (men and women over 80 with memories better or the same as people 20-30 years younger) for the past nine years through surveys, brain scans, and a neurological examinations.

During the survey, participants are asked to fill out questionnaires about their psychological well-being. They were then compared against cognitively “normal” older adults and the SuperAgers were found to have more satisfying, warm, and trusting relationships.

It turns out this group was significantly better off because of it.

The group showed better “elite memory performance” and endorsed a “significantly greater level of positive relations with others.” SuperAgers also showed a higher degree of positive social relationships than their cognitively average-for-age peers, suggesting that “perceived high-quality social relationships” may be an important factor for exceptional cognitive aging.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t know what I would do without my close friends. They are my “we.” No matter what, they’ve always been my “we will get through this” and “we will figure it out.” Good friends are the ones who have your back and love you through the good and bad, even when you don’t remember to love yourself.

In order to foster those close relationships, we must place as much importance on our friendships as we do with family, kids, and significant others. One of the SuperAgers, Edith Smith, lost her husband in 2013 after caring for him for a number of years. But that didn’t stop her from investing in other people. “All the time he was ill, I was still doing things for me,” she said. “You cannot drop everything and expect to be able to pick it up. You can’t drop your friends and expect them to be there when you’re ready.”

Truer words have never been spoken.

Now is a good a time as any to pick up the phone and tell your tribe how much you love and appreciate them. Not only will it do wonders for them, according to this study it can help us all live longer, more enjoyable, happier lives.

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