Stop Hibernating: Hanging Out With Friends Is Good for Your Heart, Study Says

Here's to having a social life.



Turns out, “I get by with a little help from my friends,” doesn’t just ring true when you need a ride to the airport or a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and a shoulder to cry on. A new study shows it also applies to the health of your heart—not your broken, pining for Ben & Jerry’s, heart, but your real anatomical heart, The Atlantic reports.

For the study, published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine, researchers at Montreal’s Concordia University and Rush University Medical Center in Chicago recruited 60 Concordia students who’d just arrived in Canada, who didn’t have any friends or family in the area and weren’t in romantic relationships.

The researchers met with the students three times over the course of five months. During the visits, the students answered questionnaires about their social lives and reported on how many people and friends they saw and talked to at least once weekly, along with how lonely they felt. They also had their heart rates measured during each of these visits to see their heart-rate variability, i.e. the variation in the time between heartbeats. In the end, the study found that the students who’d made more friends over the five months had an increase in heart-rate variability, while those who’d interacted less socially showed decreases in heart-rate variability.

What the heck does that mean, you ask? Well, as the lead researcher of the study, Jean-Philippe Gouin, explained in a press release, “Other research has shown that individuals with lower heart-rate variability are at increased risk for the development of poor health, including greater risk for cardiac diseases.” So while the study was conducted over a short period of time, its findings suggest that friends keep your heart healthy, and a prolonged empty social calendar or lack of social interaction could put a dent in your heart’s health.

The takeaway: If you tend to hibernate with your best friend, Netflix, come 30-degree weather, it might be time to put down the remote, pick up the phone and plan a happy hour with some friends. Your heart will thank you.

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