How friendship helps you live longer

We all know how important friendships are, and how they shape the fabric of our lives. They also play a crucial role in not only our mental wellbeing, but our physical health as well. 

For years now, research has been indicating that people with strong connections have a 50 percent higher chance of living longer compared to those with weak or inadequate social ties. The Harvard Study of Adult Development, which followed thousands of people and has been going on for more than 85 years, found that the quality of our relationships is the most powerful indicator of our overall health and longevity. 

“The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health,” Robert Waldinger, director of the study, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, told The Harvard Gazette. “Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too. That, I think, is the revelation.”

Friendship is powerful, indeed: they have been found to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and improve overall physical health.

In honour of World Friendship Day (July 30), Dr Haseeb Rohilla speaks to Livehealthy about the profound impact friends have on our lives. Dr Rohilla, a general adult psychiatrist who works closely with Abu Dhabi 360, the recently launched, emirate-wide wellness programme by Abu Dhabi Sports Council, explains how they provide us with a support system, reduce stress and promote a sense of belonging and purpose. 

Why do friendships play such a crucial role in our wellbeing? 

Friendships play a crucial role in our wellbeing for several reasons. First and foremost, they provide emotional support, understanding, and a sense of belonging. Having someone to talk to and share our thoughts, feelings, and experiences can help reduce stress and feelings of loneliness or isolation. Friendships also contribute to increased self-esteem and self-worth, as positive interactions with friends can reaffirm our value as individuals.

Moreover, friendships promote mental health by offering opportunities for personal growth and development. They allow us to learn from each other, gain different perspectives, and build empathy and social skills. Engaging in enjoyable activities with friends can also increase the release of dopamine and endorphins, which are neurotransmitters associated with pleasure and mood regulation.

How have friendships (or lack of them) impacted people in your practice? 

In my practice, I have encountered patients whose lack of meaningful friendships contributed to feelings of depression, anxiety, and isolation. For example, individuals who have recently moved to a new city or experienced a significant life change, such as retirement, may struggle to make new friends and find a support system. On the other hand, people who have strong, supportive friendships tend to cope better with life challenges and often report a more positive outlook on their mental health.

Why does it seem we have a harder time making friends as we age?

As we age, several factors can make it harder to make new friends. Firstly, life responsibilities, such as career, family, and other obligations, may leave less time and energy for socializing. Additionally, people tend to become more selective in their friendships as they mature, seeking deeper connections rather than a large number of acquaintances. Physical limitations or health issues can also restrict social activities, making it more challenging to meet new people.

Any tips for making new friends who are “my people” kind of friends? 

Finding “my people” kind of friends can take time and effort, but it’s worth it for our wellbeing. Here are some tips:

  • Pursue your interests: Friendships are based on similarities. Engage in activities and hobbies you enjoy, like getting involved at an Abu Dhabi 360 community event as this can provide opportunities to connect with others who share your passions.
  • Be open and approachable: Show genuine interest in others and be open to making new connections.
  • Invest time and effort: Building strong friendships requires nurturing and investing time in the relationship.
  • Take initiative: Don’t be afraid to reach out and initiate plans or conversations with potential friends.
  • Be patient: Building meaningful friendships can take time, so be patient and give the relationship space to develop naturally. is for every body and mind in the UAE. This magazine is all about moderation, making small changes, little additions and the odd subtraction.



Receive our newsletters right in your inbox.