When songwriter and bass player for supergroup Queen, John Deacon penned “Ooh you make me live” as the opening line for their hit “You’re My Best friend”, I’m guessing he didn’t know that he would in later years be backed by a 75-year Harvard University study on the impacts of relationships and happiness on health and wellbeing. Apparently, having a best friend does in fact make you live! Thanks to the Harvard University Happiness Study, it’s now proven that social connection and the quality of relationships directly influences how well and how long we live.
Following 724 men from their pimply teenage years all the way through to their wrinkly nineties with biannual interviews, blood tests, brain scans and analysis of medical records, three things became obvious.
- Good relationships keep us happy and healthy and result in longer life expectancy. On the flip-side, loneliness is toxic. People who admit to being less socially connected than they would wish, suffer health decline earlier and have shorter life expectancy.
- You can be lonely in a crowd or a marriage so therefore, it’s the quality of your close relationships that counts (500 friends on Facebook doesn’t). Living in a constant state of conflict (in dysfunctional marriages/families or workplaces) is bad for your health and shortens life expectancy. In the study, the eighty-year olds who were happiest, were not the ones who at fifty had the most money or fame or even the best health; They were the ones who were happy in their relationships.
- Having secure, dependable relationships with your wife or mates in your eighties is protective to your health. Blokes in the study who had close mates or wives that were always there for them, had much sharper memory. Those who were happiest in retirement were those who actively sought out new playmates to replace lost workmates. Many of the subjects thought that fame, fortune and high achievement were the cornerstones of a fulfilled and happy life. They later found that the time and effort taken to achieve these goals, could be counterproductive to the real health builder…. meaningful long-term relationships.
What does this all mean for us, especially as blokes? What are things that we can do to make a difference to our future happiness and health? For a start, some of the effort currently expended on the pursuit of fame and fortune may be better spent forging new friendships. Getting the work-life balance right, has measurable health benefits.
Substitute screen-time for people-time, a disappearing art that can only bring people together and enhance our social networks.
Make time for you and your friends. Maybe long walks or date night with the missus, or the fishing trip you’ve talked about for ages but never had with your mates. Reaching out to family that perhaps you haven’t talked to for years.
Joining a club or a Men’s Shed so that those whose lives have revolved around business and career can find new meaningful friendships in retirement.
Maybe its not “fat bottomed girls that make the rockin’ world go ‘round”, maybe it’s best friends!
Glen and the Team
The Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401
Phone: 08 9690 2277