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In the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, one longitudinal study found that "Middle-aged adults psychologically benefit from being well integrated into friendship networks. Partnership is associated with large kinship networks, yet only men psychologically benefit from having an extended kinship network. These findings are over and above socio-demographic factors and previous psychological health. Forty per cent of the men and 32% of the women reported that they had more than six friends whom they saw on a regular basis. The majority of them had left full-time education at the age of 16, were in employment, were partnered and had good psychological health at the age of 42." http://jech.bmj.com/content/early/2012/08/01/jech-2012-201113
And in Evidence Based Mental Health looked at whether "Social isolation factors and feelings of loneliness predict an increased risk of mortality in older people, and does this relationship differ between men and women?"
The study found "Reporting feelings of loneliness is associated with a significantly increased risk of mortality in the next 10 years in older men, but not older women. This relationship is independent of social isolation. Reporting social isolation is not an independent risk factor for mortality in the next 10 years in older men or women."
However, as Melissa Kathryn Andrew points out in the commentary "an older person who lives alone may do so because he or she is robust and independent, and may compensate in other ways, for example, by engaging in his or her community and having a network of friends on whom he or she could rely for help. Such individuals may be incorrectly classified using single measures of social isolation. Perhaps a more holistic idea of social vulnerability can be useful in capturing and embracing this complexity."
What impact would you attribute to friends on your own health and well-being?