THE BLOG
30/07/2013 13:38 BST | Updated 29/09/2013 06:12 BST

Seven Ways Your Friends Are Good for Your Health

When women get stressed they release the hormone oxytocin. This hormone makes women want to chat with their friends and open up about why they are feeling the strain. Interestingly, by opening up and sharing women release more oxytocin, which is thought to calm us and would therefore help to relive some of the original stress we felt.

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We may get jealous of their new car or their fabulous designer boots, but jealousy aside we all love hanging out with our friends; whether we're watching the game or having a gossip over a glass of vino. Yet it turns out that our friends aren't just fun, they also give us a much-needed boost to our health. Find out why your friends are good for your health:

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Gossip

Who doesn't love whispering about that girl who slept with your colleague despite being engaged? Everyone loves the cheap thrill that gossip gives us and now we know that gossiping with our friends actually has health benefits. Researchers found that people feel better when they are able to gossip about someone who is behaving badly and when they get to warn others about deceit. This kind of gossip is called 'pro-social' gossip and gossip it is thought to lower our stress levels.

Weight

Although seeing our friends often involves coffees, beers and indulgent meals, research has found that our friends can help us stay slim and healthy. A study published in PLOS ONE found that people who hung around with slim friends tended to be healthy and slim too, whilst those people who had overweight friends would typically gain weight. The stronger your relationship is with your friends, the more likely you are to be similar in size and weight. One of the researchers, Alexandra Brewis Slade, PhD, believes there is a correlation between friends' weights and our own because we mirror the behaviour of our social circles.

Survival

Ditching your buddies for cheeky nights in and romantic dates out is going to do nothing for you if you want to live to an old age. A 10 year Australian study found that older people with a large amount of friends were 22 per cent less likely to die during the study than those older people with fewer friends. Also Harvard researchers suggested that strong social ties may promote brain health as we age and another study found that those with high social relationships were 50 per cent more likely to survive during the period of study. So it turns out friends are not just there for secret sharing and karaoke fun.

Sports

If you're fed up of being accused of playing too much football, we've got a fail-proof argument that will stop you from getting hassled about you passion: playing football increases your libido. The beautiful game is said to boost testosterone and levels of this hormone is found to be highest if you are playing at home. So, the next time you consider ditching your team for a date with your girlfriend, remind yourself that playing will do you and your libido a favour.

Heart

We all know that bad men and women can break our hearts, but who knew good friends could mend them? Researchers have found that people who have strong social ties have better heart health than those who have poor social ties. This heart health is thought to come from lower blood pressure, which is a result of good friendships. Shockingly, the findings suggest that these weak social ties could in fact double your risk of heart disease.

Laughter

Remember that time when you and your friends laughed so hard that you thought you might have to go home to change your underwear? Moments like these are hard to beat, yet catching a fit of giggles is in fact great for our health. Researchers have compared the act of laughing to having a mild workout because when we laugh we engage our muscles, raise our pulse and we breathe faster, meaning that more oxygen is pumped through to our tissues.

Stress

There is evidence that having a shoulder to cry on is great for your health and your stress levels; especially if you are a woman. When women get stressed they release the hormone oxytocin. This hormone makes women want to chat with their friends and open up about why they are feeling the strain. Interestingly, by opening up and sharing women release more oxytocin, which is thought to calm us and would therefore help to relive some of the original stress we felt.

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