Friendships are crucial to your life expectancy
As a publisher of assessments, I am always looking for the next trend or tool we can offer our clients. Throughout my many years of study, I completed an online health assessment that claimed —based on your lifestyle, health practices, and background—to predict your life expectancy. Well, that piqued my curiosity. I was not surprised to see many of the common factors we all acknowledge, such as smoking, lack of exercise, and eating platefuls of my favourite Hungarian Salami—but I never guessed what was next. More beneficial than sufficient sleep and moderate exercise was this: the companionship of close friends. This item alone would significantly increase my life expectancy. I’m not talking about a month or two; the difference was calculated at several years, depending on my level of active friendships.
Here’s what the assessment asked me to do next: not only did I have to list the number of good friends but the quality, as well. I’ll explain this in a minute.
In our busyness of life, one of the foundational items that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle is our friendships—not our friends. Recently I called one of my good friends. As is typical with many of us today, it had been some time since we had talked or gotten together. One of the comments that came out was that no matter how infrequently we connect, we still consider each other good friends. In fact, we confirmed that we had a low-maintenance friendship. Is that an oxymoron?! How can you have a low maintenance FRIENDSHIP? Isn’t that contrary to the meaning of the word?
Webster’s definition of a friend is 1. A person attached to another by affection or regard or 2. A patron or supporter. Friendship is 1. the state of being a friend.
If you look at the definitions closely, you see activity in the meaning of the words. The state of BEING a friend infers motion or connection, not status. I feel I have many friends—but are they active friendships?
After I took that health assessment, I started to distinguish the difference between friend and friendship. Why? Because apparently my life and yours literally depend on it.
Based on that health assessment tool, having active friendships (significant connections—in hours, not minutes—every week) added over 5.5 years to my life expectancy grid.
For me, this is one of the Aha! moments that can grab you by the throat and get your attention.
One of my favourite words in life is intentionality. Our lives are almost always a reflection of our choices—no more, no less. What this research is proving with obvious common sense, is that friendships matter. Not only do friendships enrich our lives, they extend our lives, too.
So, I’ve decided to intentionally extend my life expectancy by BEING a friend. How about you?