Why having friends of all ages is good for your health

key takeaways

  • Loneliness and social isolation are linked to mental and physical health challenges, especially for people over the age of 50.
  • Having friends of different ages can do more than ward off loneliness; It helps us learn new skills and makes us more open-minded.

Data from the UK’s Community Life Survey shows that three groups are most at risk for loneliness:

  • Widowed Older Homeowner Living Alone With Long-Term Health Conditions
  • unmarried middle-aged adults with long-term health conditions
  • young people who are renters and may not feel part of the community

Here’s a solution that seems to be almost very Handy: What if those groups befriended each other?

According to research published late last year, befriending someone from another generation is an effective way to combat loneliness. It helps to broaden outlook, broaden support networks and ultimately enhance social inclusion.

It’s a strategy that’s working for Ariana Thao, 24, who recently started law school at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois.

“During the pandemic, I actually became very comfortable with being alone, but now that I’m in a big, new city with no support system, I feel lonely sometimes,” Thao tells Waynwell. It happens.”

After joining a non-profit volunteer organization called Freedom, Inc. in neighboring Wisconsin, she began spending time with women over the ages of 10, 20 and 30. Soon, they became her mentors, her support system and her friends.

“Being in my 20s is like being in the trenches,” she said. “I’m still building my life and there are many people around me who are the same age doing the same things and feeling the same way. But my old friends are not. They assure that I can do this

For Kimberly Wu, a 27-year-old academic advisor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, befriending colleagues in her 40s helped her find her groove at work, where she initially felt isolated and like a fraud. Was.

“As a first-generation professional, I simply didn’t know much about understanding the work culture, work-life balance and how to deal with conflict. I felt like starting from ground zero,” Vue tells Venwell.

Her work friends assured her that they felt the same way.

“Being able to talk about these things with my old friends validates my experiences and reassures me,” she said. “I think I really needed it during such an important time in my life, especially being part of an immigrant family where my parents didn’t offer that source of older wisdom.”

Intergenerational friendships are mutually beneficial

while Thao and Wu Appreciate the life experience and advice shared by your old friends, the benefits go both ways.

“As we age, if we don’t make an effort to stay engaged in activities and connected with people, we are more likely to feel a greater sense of loneliness,” says Neda Gould, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Can.” of Medicine, told Waynwell via email.

When older adults, in particular, befriend someone from a younger generation, they are more likely to learn new skills and be more open-minded, Gold said.

Thao feels he has offered his old friends a new perspective on culture.

“We’ll have deep conversations where I offer new perspectives on sex positivity, generational trauma, and race-based attitudes,” she said. “I’ve been able to shed light on some of their experiences as children and offer advice based on what I was going through as an emerging adult.”

Why is loneliness a health problem?

Loneliness can be linked to health problems like depression at any age, Adults over the age of 50 are also at higher risk of health conditions that can be exacerbated by the toll of loneliness and social isolation, including dementia, heart disease, stroke and even premature death Is.

It bets on the passage of time as well as social engagement.

Importantly, loneliness and social isolation are not the same thing, Diane Meier, MD, professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told Wellwell. Loneliness refers to the feeling of being alone regardless of how much social contact you have, while social isolation is a lack of interaction in the first place, usually measured over the course of a day or week.

Postmenopausal women may be at particularly high risk of health complications associated with both loneliness and isolation. research published in jama network open The study, out in February, found that of nearly 58,000 women monitored for eight years, social isolation was associated with an 8% increase in heart disease, while loneliness was associated with a 5% increase.

Women who said they experienced both had a 13% to 27% higher risk of heart disease than women who scored low for loneliness and isolation.

Additional studies suggest that loneliness may double the risk of type 2 diabetes. and give significantly worse outcomes in patients with heart failure.

“It’s very clear that human contact is essential to health,” Meier said. “We have to think about social interaction and being with people almost the same way we think about eating a healthy diet and getting exercise.”

Meier describes the prevalence of both loneliness and social isolation among older adults as a recent phenomenon, linked to a more mobile population and younger generations moving away from home.

“From the perspective of how our species evolved, living in intergenerational groups is normal,” she said.

She thinks intergenerational friendship is also normal.

“Irrespective of age, everyone is only human; You are no less of a person at 75 than you were at 25,” Meier said. “We have to learn to see that we are all human and we are all in this together. Age is just an attribute like height, weight or eye colour.

Leave a Comment