Facts with Hope
FACT: In a fascinating study, researchers at the University of Virginia took 34 students to the base of a hill and fitted them with heavy backpacks. They were then asked to estimate the steepness of the hill. The students who stood with friends gave lower estimates of the steepness than those who stood alone. And even more interesting was that the longer the friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared.
HOPE: God created us for community, to function at our best in the nourishing companionship of others. Reserve some time each week to connect with others to give—and receive—the benefits of friendship.
FACT: Research has found that more people fail in weight loss because of a lack of a good support system than because of a poor weight loss plan. In several studies, friendships had a more positive impact on health than relationships with a spouse or family member. And notably, proximity and frequency of contact with a friend wasn’t as significant as just having friends.
HOPE: The apostle Paul understood the benefits of a good support system when he urged readers to “not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching,” Hebrews 10:25, NIV. Who’s on your list of “best supporting friendships”?
FACT: Research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4-14 years of life expectancy. When National Geographic Explorer Dan Buettner traveled the world to research places where higher percentages of people enjoy remarkably long, full lives, he found that all but five of the 263 centenarians interviewed belonged to some faith-based community. They find well-being by spending time together, sharing each other’s values and supporting each other’s healthy behaviors.
HOPE: One critical everyday choice identified in Adventists living in Loma Linda, California was their close community with other Adventists. What activities are going on at your church? You can create a blue zone within your own community by planning (and joining) activities that foster supportive relationships.
FACT: The world’s longest-lived people either are born into or choose to create social circles that support healthy behaviors. Ikarians enjoy tight-knit communities that socialize frequently, while Okinawans build ”moais” groups of five friends that commit to each other for life.
HOPE: Research from the Framingham Studies show that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness is contagious. Assessing who you hang out with, and then proactively surrounding yourself with the right friends, will do more to add years to your life than just about anything else.
- Parker-Pope, T. (2009, April 21). What Are Friends For? A Longer Life. The New York Times, (D), p. 1.
- Giles, L., Glonek, G., Luszcz, M. & Andrews, G. (2005). Effect of social networks on 10 year survival in very old Australians: The Australian longitudinal study of aging. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 59(7): 574–579.
- Buettner, D. (2008). The blue zones: Lessons for living longer from the people who've lived the longest. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic.
- Christakis, N. A. & Fowler, J. H. (2012). Social contagion theory: Examining dynamic social networks and human behavior. Statistics in Medicine, June 18. DOI: 10.1002/sim.5408