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Ask an Expert: The benefits of adult friendships

Group of happy friends holding hands as unity oath
Roman Babakin
/
USU Extension
Group of happy friends holding hands as unity oath

By: Christina Pay, Extension assistant professor,

An old poem states, “Make new friends, but keep the old; the new are silver, the old are gold.” Researchers are finding that friendships are worth even more than silver or gold. The benefits of friendship increase your sense of belonging and purpose, contribute to improved self-worth and confidence, help you cope with traumatic events in your life, and increase happiness while reducing stress.

In a study published by the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, researchers noted, “Incorporating social support and connections is critical for overall health and for healthy habits to be sustainable.” They also found evidence that social support helps people maintain a variety of health factors such as blood sugar control, heart health, a healthy body mass index, cancer survival improvement, and overall mental health improvement. Another study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry concluded that “social connection is the strongest protective factor for depression.”

Adults can find it difficult to develop new friendships or maintain existing friendships because responsibilities such as work or taking care of a family often take priority. Additionally, friendships change as people change interests or move away. However, you are never too old, and it is never too late to reach out to old friends or make new ones. Friendship takes effort, but given the benefits, the extra work is worth it.

The suggestions below from the Mayo Clinic can help you nurture new and existing friendships.

1. Be kind. This is the core of successful relationships. You get back what you put in, so make certain what you give is positive and kind. Express gratitude for the small things.

2. Be a good listener. Let your friend know you are interested in his or her life. Show interest through eye contact and body language. Try to listen and ask clarifying questions, but don’t respond with advice unless it is solicited.

3. Open up. Share about your life to build connection with your friend. This shows that they hold a special place in your life and you trust them. Try expressing your feelings with “I” statements to build the relationship.

4. Show that you can be trusted. Be dependable, reliable, and responsible. When your friends share confidences with you, keep them confidential. Be sure to follow through on commitments, and be on time when you plan get togethers.

5. Make yourself available. Forging friendships takes time, including time spent together. Try to see new friends regularly and check in with them between visits. Text or call when you think about them, and be available for them.

Nicholas Porath is a Logan native and music lover. He recently graduated from USU with a degree in broadcast journalism. It was while studying journalism that he found his niche and newfound love for radio. He first started out as an intern behind the scenes and found his way to the control room where he now hosts Here & Now on Monday through Friday from 11-1. Nick is also the producer for DEBUNKED.