Friendship isn’t just fun and convenient. It is perhaps one of the most enjoyable ways to stay healthy, sane, and safe.
What’s more, research shows that not having friends during times of acute stress in your life may not only impact your own health, but also that of your children. According to a 2008 study by Mickelson and Demmings, women who need social support the most are least likely to have it, and their kids may be paying a high price for it.
Low-income women are more likely to face stressful life events and to have inadequate social support. Because they do not have as many traditional friends or family members as support to rely on during stressful times, they are more likely to lean on their young children for emotional support. According to the study, when kids are expected to fill the role of more mature emotional supporters, it can have a negative effect on their wellbeing.
Substituting a child for the role of a traditional supporter is not only less effective at improving the mom’s coping ability, but also contributes to a decrease in health status for her and her child, making both worse off. In short, the situation becomes a perfect storm, wherein those most likely to experience stressful events are least able to lean on an appropriate support network. Those who have the least social support then lean on their children, negatively impacting the health of themselves and their kids.
Studies also show that having a variety of social relationships is also important. Be active in volunteer activities, go to a happy hour event after work, chat with your neighbors, socialize after church, join an activity group, whatever. Just do it!
If the information above doesn’t make a tragic case for making friends and improving your social support network, then I don’t know what will. If you have the means and opportunity to make friends or be social, then do it.
Your health – and that of your children – may depend on it.