Having Friends Literally Helps Your Body

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A friend in need is a friend indeed. It might be a little snarky, but research shows it’s true. People need friends and this is especially true for children undergoing difficult times. A friend can make all the difference.

The presence of a best friend directly impacts the kids who are going through a negative experience. Findings by researchers at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the University of Nebraska at Omaha confirm this. Feelings of self-worth and the presence of cortisol, a stress hormone, are dependent on the social context of a negative experience.

“Having a best friend present during an unpleasant event has an immediate impact on a child’s body and mind,” explained co-author William M. Bukowski, a psychology professor and director of the Concordia Centre for Research in Human Development. “If a child is alone when he or she gets in trouble with a teacher or has an argument with a classmate, we see a measurable increase in cortisol levels and decrease in feelings of self-worth.”

Almost equal numbers of boys and girls were asked to keep a journal and participate in saliva tests which revealed cortisol levels. This is the first study to demonstrate that the presence of a friend yields an immediate benefit physically and psychologically.

“Our physiological and psychological reactions to negative experiences as children impacts us later in life,” said Bukowski. “Excessive secretion of cortisol can lead to significant physiological changes, including immune suppression and decreased bone formation. Increased stress can really slow down a child’s development.”