What are the health benefits of friendship?

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For most people, friendships form an important part of life. Sharing experiences is part of being human. And many studies have shown that loneliness has a negative effect on our well-being.

Friendship has a positive impact on mental health, but can it also have physical benefits? Medical News Today looks at the evidence and speaks to experts to find out why friendships are good for our health and wellness.

We do not have to be social all the time — sometimes we need to enjoy our own space — but all people need social interactions. That is why people make friends and work at maintaining those friendships. And quality friendships will benefit all those involved.

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Human beings are a social species. From the earliest times, individuals have needed to cooperateTrusted Source in order to survive, and we still do. We are not alone in this — most animalsTrusted Source have social interactions and rely on cooperation.

Although animal friendships have been derided as anthropomorphism, research has now shown that some animals do form long-term, stable relationships just like human friendships.

Of course, not all animals have such friendships — as far as we know, these are restricted to those that live in stable social groupsTrusted Source, such as higher primates, elephants and cetaceans, such as whales and dolphins.

The basis of friendship is to value one another — each individual offers something that is valuable to another individual.

As humans, we value others for all sorts of reasons. They might like the same things we do, they might have similar political views, or perhaps lend help with work or chores.

Once we decide that we value someone, more often than not we will work at maintaining that friendship.

Speaking with Medical News Today, Dr. Scott Kaiser, a geriatrician and director of Geriatric Cognitive Health for the Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, had this to say about friendship’s role in the evolution of humanity:

“Research suggests that evolution has continually selected for increasing social connection with social interaction and networks playing a major role in the survival of people. According to this framework, our ancestors formed social connections — working together, sharing food, and otherwise helping each other—to feel safe and protected.”

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