NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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“Two little boys, ages 5 and 6, roamed the meadows and woods near their rural home until the older boy started school. The younger boy found the same meadow, patch of woods and small stream where they had searched for turtles were sad and empty places until 3:30 each day when his friend got off the school bus and the magic of friendship changed everything.”

The magic of friendship has many positive social, emotional, and physical results. We call it magic because no one knows exactly how it works. Some call it an inspiration for life. Medical professionals tell us that friendship helps the body’s autoimmune system resist disease. Other researchers have noted that people with close relationships who interacted daily with friends eat better, sleep better, are more apt to take their prescribed medicine, are reminded to go for checkups, and generally take good care of their health.

The best friendships usually form between people who share experiences, interests, and values. Friends relax together and receive emotional support from one another. Friends often describe their relationship with words like “love,” “affection,” “comfortable,” and “warm.”  Certain social factors seem to help determine the type of people who will be friends. Most people have friends who are near their age.   Another researcher noted that women average about five good friends, while men average only about three.

In one nationwide study, 91 percent of people over 65 with close friends said that they see these friends almost every day. This is only slightly lower than the 94 percent of adolescents who try to see their friends every day.  Other research studies have found a link between the strength of a person’s network of friends and his or her physical and social health.  Those with few relationships tend to be at much higher risk for disease or death than those who have strong ties with friends or family. This holds true for men and women from all ethnic groups and at all social and economic levels. Friendship can bring a person:

- Emotional support—the caring, love, and esteem of others.

- Tangible help in times of crisis, as well as on a daily basis.

-Communication and information in the form of opinions and recommendations.

-  Something to do. Most older adults do more if they have a friend who also wants to go along.


Being able to confide in a close friend helps reduce the strain of daily hassles. Close personal relationships also help people adjust to changes such as death, birth, marriage, and moving to another home.

It is an old saying, but still true: “To have a friend, you must be a friend.” If you lack the friendships you desire, you may need to take the initiative to be a friend to someone else. If you feel isolated, think about joining a civic group, a social club, a volunteer organization, or a church. These are great places to meet people, and you may discover people with whom you have a lot in common.

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