• Keeping Friends

NPR on midlife friendships

Published: March 22, 2016 | Last Updated: May 2, 2021 By | Reply Continue Reading

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Some findings on midlife friendships…

A recent post on NextAvenue.org by writer/editor Emily Gurnon, 8 Ways to Survive and Thrive in Midlife, reported on research reviews and interviews on midlife friendships conducted by midlife expert Barbara Bradley Hagerty, a former NPR correspondent.

Over two years, Hagerty examined a variety of issues affecting people at midlife for her book, Life Reimagined: The Science, Art and Opportunity of Midlife. One aspect of her work focused on midlife friendships.

Hagerty describes a research study in which she and other consenting subjects participated. Participants were given mild electrical shocks (to their ankles) under three different conditions: while accompanied by a friend, while accompanied by a stranger, and while alone.

The researchers found that when subjects were alone or with strangers, the shock subjectively felt more painful than when they were holding hands with a friend. Brains scans also found that the brains of those who were alone or with strangers also “lit up,” while the brains of those with friends did not. One conclusion the researchers drew from this study: “Friends are key to our survival, not just emotionally but biologically.”

Hagarty also interviewed helpers working with a social service organization called Little Brothers: Friends of the Elderly that provides social support to older persons. The helpers from the group found that loneliness can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. When people were very lonely, they often became hostile when offered opportunities for socialization.

I hope you’ll find the brief audio segment below interesting:

If you would like to find links to other work by Hagerty, be sure to check out 8 Ways to Survive and Thrive in Midlife on Next Avenue.

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