An author, researcher, and humanitarian, not only have I come across the benefits of friendship in my work, but I’ve experienced them personally. It’s important to be aware of other research which suggests that one should be careful to select positive friends, as the stress that comes from bad friends can negate the health benefits of having their friendship.
Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, has found that dealing with people who arouse conflicted feelings in us can raise blood pressure more than dealing with people we don’t like. Participants were hooked up to portable blood pressure monitors, and Holt-Lunstad and her colleagues found that blood pressure was highest when people were interacting with someone they had mixed feelings for. What especially surprised Holt-Lunstad was that these interactions caused higher blood pressure than those with people the research subjects felt completely negative about. She explains, “We suspect that people we feel positive toward can hurt us that much more when they make a snide comment or don’t come through for us because they are important to us. Friends may help us cope with stress, but they also may create stress.”
Having lots of friends can boost your immune system, help you survive longer after a heart attack, fight serious illnesses such as cancer, and increase your life span. With such positive advantages, you should make sure to increase your number of friends, but also keep in mind the importance of avoiding stressful, low-quality friendship and seeking out positive companionship.