Some people can make friends anywhere, while others find it a little more difficult to make a strong connection. No matter where you find yourself on this spectrum, research is showing that it pays to have companionship, from good friends to family members or a happy marriage.
Companionship gives you more than just someone to talk to—it can help you live longer too. From improving your health to making you happier, having a companion has far-reaching benefits. Here are a few reasons you should keep your social connections strong throughout your life.
Lower the risk of dementia
Companionship can help lower your risk of developing dementia. Researchers have found a connection between loneliness and Alzheimer’s disease, with lonely people being twice as likely to develop this form of dementia. In one study, older adults were evaluated for levels of loneliness and cognitive ability, and researchers found that the risk for developing Alzheimer’s increased as the loneliness score went up.
Stay healthy in old age
Having strong social connections can help you stay healthy as you age and reduces your overall disease risk. Social interaction in older adulthood has been shown to protect health across the board, from reducing obesity to lowering the risk of other chronic diseases. Research has shown that it is important to have strong relationships throughout life and to maintain social connections in older adulthood.
Keep your blood pressure down
Positive companionship could help keep your heart healthy. In one study, participants had their blood pressure continuously monitored: by the end, happily married couples had the best blood pressure in the group, and single people came in second.
However, having companionship alone may not keep your blood pressure in a healthy range. In that same study, unhappily married couples had the worst blood pressure, so the strength of the relationship seems to play a big role in the health advantages companionship has to offer.
Lower the risk of depression
Being in a relationship can help lower your risk of depression. According to a report by the Department of Health and Human Services, marriage can provide emotional benefits that, in turn, benefit your health. Marriage is associated with a decrease in symptoms of depression, as it can improve self-worth and provide people with emotional intimacy and support, which can make people feel more satisfied and happy.
“Depression is common for older adults who may experience loneliness after they retire or when family members move away,” says Liza Codina, director of nursing, Kearny Mesa Convalescent and Nursing. “Having a companion in their life can help maintain social interactions and reduce the risk of depression.”
Lower your stress
Having strong social connections can help relieve stress, whether the connection is marriage, family, or good friends. Not only does lower stress increase happiness, but it also has a positive impact on your health. Lower levels of stress can improve your heart health and immune system. Caring for other people and expressing affection may release hormones that help to reduce your stress.
Whether they be introverted or extroverted, all humans need social interaction as part of life. Maintaining strong relationships can have lifelong benefits, from mental health to physical health. If you have a companion in your life, work to keep the relationship happy. And if you don’t have a companion, maybe it is time to put yourself out there and make some new connections. Even if it isn’t “till death do us part,” you’ll be grateful for new faces keeping you company along the way.
Amy Osmond Cook is the host of Good Day Orange County and the founder of the Association of Skilled Nursing Providers. She is a health care consultant and VP of marketing at Simplus, a Platinum Salesforce partner.
Source: Orange County Register