Forgotten Stress Reliever: Time with Friends

Two friends embracingMake time with friends a priority.  Several years ago Ladies Home Journal reported many women were lonely.  In 2007, more than 27 million Americans lived completely alone.  20% of people feel so cut off from others that loneliness is a major source of unhappiness.1

The danger of the Internet is isolation.  Relationships with people online don’t fulfill the deep-seated need for human contact, touch and quality conversation. Working alone on the computer  all day does not meet your needs for actual physical contact, hearing a friendly voice or looking into someone’s warm eyes.

Lonely people eat more fats, exercise less and are more apt to die young.2   The stress of social isolation contributes to breast cancer susceptibility.3  One Harvard Medical School Nurses’ Health Study says that not cultivating meaningful relationships can be as life-threatening as cigarettes.

The Solution: Schedule time with friends every week

Spending time with friends creates the release of oxytocin, a neurotransmitter that relieves stress and promotes euphoria.  Those who had the most friends over a 9 year time period cut their risk of death by 60%.4 A recent study in Australia showed that people in contact with at least 5 friends on a weekly basis were 22% less likely to die in 10 years.5

Schedule in friend time; it could actually extend your life. Try to see at least 3 different friends every week and see how much better you feel.  It could also boost your happiness quotient.  Very happy people have good relationships.  Whether with a friend, partner, a parent or relative, a key indicator in two different happiness studies demonstrate that strong friendships and connections lead to joy.

1. & 2 Kleinfield, Judith, “The effects of loneliness are serious, studies show,” Fairbanks Daily News Mirror, April 5, 2009

3. Harms, William, “Isolation and stress identified as contributing to breast cancer risk,”

4.  Taylor, S. E.; Klein, L.C.; Lewis, B. P.; Gruenewald, T. L.; Gurung, R. A. R.; & Updegraff, J. A.  “Female Responses to Stress: Tend and Befriend, Not Fight or Flight”, Psychological Review (2000), 107(3), p.41-429.

5.  McCafferty, Megan, “Easy Ways to Add Years to Your Life” and “Where Did All My Friends Go?” Ladies Home Journal, Feb., 2009, p. 140 and, April 2008