CANCER can be a lonely business and I would not have got through it without my friends.
I am a lucky girl indeed to have such wonderful people standing by me during my struggles. I believe that having a diverse social network is an important factor for your health. And science bears me out.
A team of psychologists at Brigham Young University in Utah, USA, reviewed 148 studies that tracked social interaction and the health of 308,849 people over an average of 7.5 years.
They concluded that ‘being lonely and isolated is as bad for a person’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being an alcoholic’ and was ‘as harmful as not exercising and twice as bad for your health as being obese’.
Other recent research into animal behaviour published by Dr Claudia Wascher from Anglia Ruskin University produced similar findings. In a study of captive carrion crows, those living in large social groups were found to be healthier than those with fewer social interactions.
I have lived in six countries so I quickly learnt how to combat loneliness but it takes real effort to make friends and keep them. Friendship is a two-way street.
I found joining a group with shared interests was an easy way to meet people, or helping with a community project. Even learning a new skill can cultivate the friendships which are essential for our well-being.
I think of all my absolutely fabulous friends who have kept my spirits up and I recall a favourite quote by Irish poet William Butler Yeats, who once said: “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends”.
I certainly feel glorious and that really is something to crow about!