Because Blogger's "Adult warning" often goes into a perpetual loop (isn't working properly), I will be making all new posts at my WordPress blog. You can follow it even if you do not have a WordPress Account. There're also my Twitter and my Tumblr blog, my Facebook and my Google+ page and my group.
(Update: Blogger hasn't fixed its problem with the "adult warning". Will go back to posting at my WordPress blog)

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Why Friends Can Make Men Live Longer

An intriguing article

A single good friend can make as much as a 10-year difference in life expectancy.

I first heard about the male deficit model, the sociological theory that men are lousy at friendship, a few months after my friend Matt moved to Seattle.

The male deficit model holds that men tend to drift apart whenever the activity they share ends. Matt and I, for instance, spent hours and hours surfing together in San Francisco. But then I became a father and no longer had much time to spend in the water, and we began to see less of each other. Our friendship rekindled only after Matt and his wife bought a fixer-upper in my neighbourhood, and we had a blast demolishing the walls of his old kitchen. Then, when he had a kid, we’d push our strollers around the neighbourhood.

I thought it was a great friendship, if I thought about it at all. But then Matt’s wife, Jodi, accepted a job offer in Seattle. Matt and I told ourselves nothing would change. Jodi and Liz even arranged a surprise ‘‘bromantic’’ (their word) surf trip to Baja that winter. When Liz told me, I had to laugh: it was like Matt and I were little boys, depending on our mums to plan a play date.

But then, in perfect accordance with the male deficit model, reality set in. First, Matt cancelled our farewell beers-and-barbecue session; he was too busy packing. Then, a month after the move, Matt came back to town on a three-day work trip but was too busy to drop by. A month later, he came down for a friend’s 50th birthday party, and I saw him for all of 10 minutes - at the party.

Feeling stung and sensing our friendship was toast, I told Liz I was thinking about cancelling the Baja trip.

The male deficit model is based on 30 years of research into friendship and relationships - most of which shows that male friendships are less intimate, more competitive, and less satisfying than female ones. ‘‘The older we get, the more we accept our essential friendlessness,’’ writes psychologist Stuart Miller in Men and Friendship.
So your social life could be better. Big deal, right? Actually, it’s a bigger deal than you might know.

That’s because nearly all research into healthy aging has found that the key to a long, happy life is not diet or exercise but strong social connections - that is, friendships. Loneliness accelerates age-related declines in cognition and motor function, while a single good friend has been shown to make as much as a 10-year difference in overall life expectancy. A huge meta-study performed in part at Brigham Young University, which reviewed 148 studies with a combined 308,849 subject participants, found that loneliness is just as harmful to health as not exercising, smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and alcoholism, and fully twice as bad as being obese. Still more startling is a 2010 study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology that looked at 2230 cancer patients in China. Social wellbeing, including friendship, turned out to be the number one predictor of survival.

Some of this stems from the fact that isolated people tend to exercise less, eat poorly, and drink too much. But some researchers believe that loneliness has a negative health impact all on its own. In numerous studies over the past 30 years, John Cacioppo, a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago and the pioneer of the biological study of loneliness, has found that lonely people have chronically elevated levels of the stress and fear hormones cortisol and epinephrine. In a 2007 paper published in Genome Biology, he even demonstrated a correlation between loneliness and the activity of certain genes associated with systemic inflammation, elevating risk for viral invasion and cardiovascular disease.

And yet the capacity of men to combat loneliness - and improve their health - by building strong friendships seems to be steadily eroding. Cambridge professors Jacqueline Olds and Richard Schwartz, writing in The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-First Century, point to a current tendency among adults to build stronger, more intimate marriages at the expense of almost all other social connections. In a study of contemporary childcare arrangements,  they found a deep sense of loneliness among many parents, especially men. ‘‘Almost every father we spoke with explained that he had lost contact with most of his male friends,’’ they write. And lest you believe family is company enough, the 2005 Australian Longitudinal Study of Ageing showed that family relationships have almost no impact on longevity. Friendships, by contrast, boosted life span as much as 22 per cent.

And don’t think you’re immune because of the great relationship you have with your wife. A team of researchers from around the world analysed a vast mobile phone database - 2 billion calls and 500 million text messages - and found that by the time married women hit 45 or so, they demote their husbands from first to second place among their most important relationships, typically in favour of a daughter or a younger female friend. It turns out our wives are going to dump us without even leaving the marriage.

Read more here

See also Straight Guys Loving

No comments: