Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Friendships & Inflammation

I said that I would no doubt be writing about inflammation in the future but didn't expect it to be this soon.

Yesterday I read an interesting article by Carole Jackson of  Daily Health about research that has been done into the effects of friendship on our health. The results are quite fascinating.

A study was done of British men and women by Dr Noriko Cable over a 5-year period to establish the effects on mental well-being of having or not having many friends. A previous study had already shown that having friends reduces inflammation in the body and this new study sought to build on that earlier study.

The participants were asked to say approximately how many friends they had, with whom they met at least once a month. Five years later the study followed up to establish their psychological well-being. The results showed that people with more than 10 friends had a higher level of confidence and contentment than those who had less than 10 friends. That can be translated into feeling less stress if you have more friends. Read the full article here.

Many people who have psoriasis, arthritis and various other auto-immune conditions find that it is aggravated by periods of increased stress. We knew this was an effect of stress but not why or how it happens. These two studies seem to hold one possible answer, in that friendships reduce stress, which reduces inflammation.

A few months ago I wrote a blog entry about inflammation showing in X-rays, both on the skin (where it appears as psoriasis) and internally on various organs. Psoriasis involves inflammation in and on many parts of the body. Arthritis involves inflammation in the joints. For these conditions, inflammation plays a major part in creating the discomfort and pain that can make the lives of people with these conditions anywhere from mildly inconvenient through to thoroughly miserable.

We need to do whatever we can to minimise that inflammation and, according to these studies, increasing the number and quality of our friendships can help in that quest.

The quality of your friendships is important in this because we all know people who are simply more trouble than they are worth. They are in the friendship for what they can get out of it rather than to simply be a good friend. Or they are negative about themselves, us or their situations, with nothing positive to say about anything. These people drain us and can be unpleasant to have around; they create stress rather than alleviating it.

Friendship is a two-way street, with both parties needing to feel good about the relationship. If you regularly come away from meeting with such a friend feeling stressed in some way then you have to ask yourself if that friendship is worth maintaining into the future. We need to get such people out of our lives and to rather build up friendships with people who have a positive attitude, people with whom we share common interests and pleasures. When we associate with people who make us feel good about ourselves we feel less stressed. The lower stress levels will translate into less inflammation, which will ease the symptoms of your psoriasis and/or arthritis.