While no one disagrees that having close friends is a good thing, it’s only relatively recently that its fundamental importance to our health and wellbeing has begun to be understood by doctors, scientists and psychologists.
It’s something that bears out in our own 2016 Eudaimonia research. The people we questioned who are always around friends or family with whom they have a positive relationship had an average wellbeing score of 7.16/10. That was the highest uplift in wellbeing scores. Whereas the lowest scores were recorded by those who are rarely with their friends or family (4.39/10), and those who may be regularly with friends or family but the relationships are poor (4.14/10).
Apart from the psychological considerations, scientists say loneliness ultimately affect the immune system and has been linked to a 30% increase in the risk of having a stroke or coronary artery disease. So finding time to socialise could be one the wisest decisions you make all year.
However, it’s not always that easy. Big cities may be full of people, but often the population is transitory. People move away and it’s hard to make new friends. Loneliness – especially among the elderly – is even being described by some as an epidemic. According to the NHS it's estimated 51% of all people over the age of 75 in England live alone, and five million older people say the television is their main form of company. What can be done?