On the Beatles legendary 'Sergeant Pepper' Album, Ringo sings ...
I get by with a little help from my friends ...
Leaving to one side for the moment the quality of his singing voice (or lack thereof) I am here to tell you that John, Paul George and Ringo may have hit on something with that sentiment. It appears that 'The Fab Four' were way ahead of their time with their philosophy regarding the relationship between friendship, health and even longevity! The reason I make this bold statement (and an even bolder attempt at singing a few bars of this song while waiting in line at Starbucks) was because I spotted something in the newspaper I picked up which caught my attention.
An article in the Tuesday April 21st issue of Science Times (The New York Times) reported on the rapidly increasing amount of research into the importance of friendships and social networks to overall health. Here's the lead paragraph in full
In the quest for better health, many people turn to doctors, self-help books or herbal supplements. But they overlook a powerful weapon that could help them fight illness and depression, speed recovery, slow aging and prolong life: their friends.
The article cites an Australian study which reported that older people with a large circle of friends were "... 22 percent less likely to die" during the study period than those with fewer friends. Also a large US study that reported " ... an increase of almost 60% in the risk of obesity among people whose friends had gained weight". In the June 17, 2008 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, a Harvard research team followed 16,000 men and women over age 50 for six years. The results showed a clear connection between being socially active and involved, and preserving memory and cognitive abilities. There is increasing evidence to suggest that friendship has an even greater effect on health than a spouse or family member.
This is all highly interesting and valuable information, and more research of course will bring even greater clarity to these connections. In the meantime however I want to comment on the way this kind of research is conducted and the way it is reported. In my ongoing quest of pursuing an 'assett-based' approach to health and wellness, I continually find that 'benefits' are almost always reported as 'reductions in risk' - or as I have written in previous posts 'Getting less bad' (See http://telosity.wordpress.com/2008/01/22/getting-less-bad/).
Take the results of the Australian study reported above. The other way of viewing these results is that older people with larger circles of friends were (some percentage) more likely to live - and so continue to enjoy life. Now, which would you prefer to experience - being less likely to die - or being more likely to live? Of course it's all in the way you think about it, but for me, positive is always preferable to negative. I'd rather 'get more good' than 'get less bad'. I view the US study in the same way. What about the group who had friends that were of normal weight? What positive things happened to them? What is the message being sent when research results are reported in this way? Avoid your friends, or avoid making friends if they are overweight? The point I am trying to make here is that there are many benefits to be gained from building and keeping friendships, perhaps more than we ever realized. More importantly these benefits are positive experiences, best 'recieved' (and most effectively recieved) when expressed in a positive fashion. While the research on friendship is still embryonic, there is a large, and still growing body of research in 'Positive Psychology' that confirms the relationship between positivity and health. So I say - take this to heart and choose to be 'positively good'!
Speaking of 'positively good' I wanted to add something else that struck me even more powerfully as I was reading this article. I was really taken by the fact that I have actually seen and experienced - in real life - the positive friendship- and socially- inspired benefits that the research in this article talks about through my involvement with STRIVE - the group-based strength and wellness program conducted by my other company The STRIVE Wellness Corporation (www.strivealive.com)
STRIVE is a fun, socially active, group strength training and wellness program, specifically designed for older adults. STRIVE uniquely combines an ongoing, comprehensive wellness assessment with personalized, expert attention, from highly qualified professionals. STRIVE members experience dramatic improvements not only in their functional fitness but also in their physical, social and mental health. Regular STRIVE members have a positively infectious outlook on life and approach getting older with a youthful enthusiasm. But STRIVE isn't just a place to get fit... it's a place to make new friends, share experiences, find support, dream new dreams...
Thats what we say about STRIVE - and that's what we have discovered with STRIVE. You can read and view testimonials from dozens of participants supporting these claims @ http://www.strivealive.com/access/?c=stories. As far as the research in the above newspaper article is concerned, very often life preceeds research - or maybe it's more appropriate to say that life sometimes prompts research to investigate things that people have 'known' for years!
To paraphrase the newspaper quote above
In the quest for better health, many older adults turn to doctors, self-help books or herbal supplements. But some are also discovering a powerful weapon that increases their strength, independence, vitality, energy and quality of life: STRIVE!
With a little help from STRIVE, our members are activating their aging as well as activating their engagement with life
- and their engagement with friends -