What would we do without our mates? They put up with our moans, share our joys and are always there with a hug when things get on top of us. But the wonders of friends don't end there - they can actually keep us healthier, too. Here's how:
Here's one to share with your partner the next time he grumbles about the amount of time you spend on the phone! Recent research from the University of Michigan found that just having a chat with a friend can increase your levels of progesterone, a hormone which is thought to help with bonding and increases your feeling of calmness and well-being.
If you've got an exercise buddy, chances are it's not the thought of pounding away on a treadmill that gets you to the gym in the evening - it's wanting to meet up with your mate. Having someone to exercise with means you're far more likely to stick to your routine and reach your goals, as you'll be there to support each other. (And it's more fun, of course.)
We all know that we should be going for those scans and checkups that the doctor keeps phoning about. It's just that lack of time - and, let's be honest, more enjoyable options - keep getting in the way. But women who have plenty of friends are apparently more likely to keep those potentially life-saving appointments - probably because our friends won't leave us alone until we do.
Numerous studies have shown that people with a wide circle of friends seem to live longer - and those who have fewer contacts are more likely to suffer from conditions like heart disease or diabetes. Why? Nobody's really sure. It could be that people with friends are simply happier, and that stops them engaging in behaviour which could damage health, like overeating or smoking. But perhaps it's just enough to know that your friends can literally be lifesavers.
Progesterone and Chatting: Brown SL, Fredrickson BL, Wirth MM et al. Social Closeness Increases Salivary Progesterone in Humans: Horm Behav, June 2009; Volume 56, Issue 1, p108-111
Keeping Appointments: Jackson, Todd. Relationships Between Perceived Close Social Support and Health Practices within Community Samples of American Women and Men. J Psychol. 2006 May;140(3):229-46.