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Healthy Aging

What Do Your Friends Mean to You?

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 04/29/2009
Last Updated: 12/16/2009

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A theme that runs through my life is friendship. I value my friends and need them just as much as I need anything else in life, like food and air. I've always been this way. Although I'm not a person who needs lots and lots of them, I've always depended on the closeness of friendship to sustain me.

What's interesting to me is the growing research on the subject of meaningful social ties and the effect close friendships have on health. Among many benefits - like a lower death rate among elderly people with a closer circle of friends than those who had few friends - is also the promotion of brain health as we age.

Another study done of almost 3,000 nurses with breast cancer found that women who did not have close friends were four times as likely to die from the disease as women with 10 or more friends.

An interesting article in The New York Times speaks to the whole subject of the importance of that special thing called friendship.

This week, while I'm away at Canyon Ranch in a program with a group of 16 other women, I'm reminded of that special bond that can form between women. I'm reminded of how nourishing, enriching and fulfilling women's friendships can be. Granted, I only know these women for a short time - but there is something sort of magical that forms between women who have a lot to say and the comfort of sharing it with one another. It's not always the words, but the actions, too; like making extra room at the table for the late-comer, or exchanging a knowing look when, at a lecture, a point that resonates comes across. Or it's those spontaneous, candid conversations that crop up seemingly from nowhere.

It's too early in the week to know if any of us will stay in touch once this week ends. But even if we don't, I'm not just gaining enrichment from the lectures, the hikes, the massages and all the other things this special place has to offer. My days are richer from the interactions I have with other women who, for maybe just a short time, are just like real friends.

Do you have special friends in your life? How does it impact your health and well-being?


I am lucky enough to have a group of friends who have been in my life for years and years--some I've known since elementary school. We know eachother inside and out. But I also have friendships that have developed later on down my life's road, and they are so valuable as well. Friends enhance my life so much, and they are my vitamins-- being around them, laughing, crying, sharing--is a huge dose of health!

I think it's great to have different friends for different activities or purposes. I have a couple of "best friends," one childhood friend, and numerous friends pegged to my interests and career (tennis, quilting, writing, etc.).

Whether you liked "Sex or the City" or not, it did get one thing right...women need friends like fish need water!


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