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How to pick friends that are good for your health

Friendships can greatly impact your life. 

They can make us happier, improve our eating and fitness habits, stave off loneliness, and lower our stress levels. 

In doing so, our friends play a pivotal role in protecting us from chronic illnesses caused by high blood pressure, anxiety, poor diet, lack of exercise and other bad lifestyle habits like smoking and drinking too much.

This association between friendships and good health has been well documented for decades.

But experts warn it is important to invest your time in the right kinds of friendships to avoid sacrificing your goals and values, which could make you depressed and unhealthy. 

Friendships can make us happier, improve our eating and fitness habits, stave off loneliness, and lower our stress levels. Therapist Amy Morin explains how to pick friends that boost you


1. Friends can boost your longevity

Scores of studies have shown loneliness cuts lifespans short, while social interaction extends it. 

One recent study by Stanford University focused on male friendships, showing male rats which were housed together were healthier than solitary rats. 

And a paper by Michigan State University scholar William Chopik in June found friends were more important than family for adding extra years to your life. 

2. We are less stressed and depressed when we’re with good friends

According to a study by Brigham Young University in Utah, loneliness shortens lifespan as much as obesity. 

They found the lack of social connections presents an added risk of premature death, and the existence of relationships provides a positive health effect. 

The emotional toll of loneliness, they found, leads people to devalue their life and health, driving them to pick up damaging life habits like smoking and binge-eating.

‘The effect is comparable to obesity, something that public health takes very seriously,’ said Julianne Holt-Lunstad, the lead study author.

‘We need to start taking our social relationships more seriously.’

Meanwhile Chopik’s study on a pair of studies involving nearly 280,000 people found good friendships can offset all of the health issues associated with loneliness.

But he cautioned that those friendships have to be ‘good’ ones. 

‘Friendships help us stave off loneliness but are often harder to maintain across the lifespan,’ he said.

‘If a friendship has survived the test of time, you know it must be a good one – a person you turn to for help and advice often and a person you wanted in your life.’ 

3. Good friends drive you to achieve your fitness, diet and life goals 

One of the most important parts of a friendship is the way it influences us. 

This can be positive or damaging. 

If it’s positive, friends can drive us to stick to things longer, studies have shown. 

But sheer fact of being with friends also has a psychological and hormonal impact that makes our workouts better, according to a recent study by the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Researchers found that exercising in a group reduced stress by 26 percent in some people compared to lone keep-fit fans.

Individuals who exercise on their own do so for twice as long and do not experience any noticeable changes in day-to-day stress levels, scientists at a leading medical college revealed.

Dr Dayna Yorks and her team found that mental, physical and emotional well-being improves life, specifically for those in stressful jobs.  


Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and a lecturer at Northeastern University, is the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do. 

In her writing, and working with patients, she has come across countless toxic friendships, and strong ones. 

‘There’s a lot of research how the people we surround ourselves with affect our self control,’ Morin explains to Daily Mail Online. 

‘Having close friends can help you to live longer from blood pressure to your cholesterol levels. 

‘But while some friends inspire you to become better, some sabotage our goals.

‘It’s important to work out who your good friends are.’

Here are her top tips: 

1. You can have too MANY friends

‘It’s more about quality of friendships than quantity,’ Morin explains. 

‘People who spend too much time on social media and have more social media connections experience more stress and anxiety. 

‘Knowing that you have people who you are genuinely close to who can confide in will make you feel stronger, and that will have a positive impact on your health.’

2. Too few friends can be incredibly damaging

‘I came across a bizarre study which said when you don’t have a lot of friends you take bigger financial risks,’ Morin said. 

‘We experience uncomfortable emotions after going through a break-up or feeling rejected. That can drive you to try to compensate by spending money on things you don’t need.’

3. Make time to SEE your friends in real life 

‘You don’t want to exchange real-life quality time for time spent on social media,’ Morin warns.

‘Face to face conversations are key to helping you bond and nurture friendships. If you don’t spend much time together, you won’t have a strong friendship.’   

4. Bad friends derail your plans  

‘Look for people who inspire you to become better,’ Morin says. 

‘People who are self disciplined can help us keep our diet on track.

‘If you have friends who want to derail your goals. We have all had friends who collude with us and encourage us to make poor choices. 

‘Don’t give away your power. Don’t let other people take a toll on the way you think and feel and behave. 

‘If you find you’re working really hard on a goal and your friend is sabotaging that, then you can have a frank conversation with that person and say “this is important to me”. 

‘If you have said no and they persist, you might need to leave. 

‘Sometimes you might have to decide to cut people out of your life.’

5. Take a balanced approach

Morin warns that while some friends may not be the best influence, you don’t want to cut everyone out that doesn’t follow the same diet, career trajectory, and evening plans as you. 

‘You still want to have fun with your friends, even if some of them might influence you to do certain things,’ she explains.

‘It’s about finding a balance, and not giving away your power.’