Best friends are there through thick and thin.
They’re always on hand to offer a shoulder to cry on and to be our voice of reason – whether we’re getting through a breakup, having a confidence crisis at work or dealing with family drama.
But a new study has found just how important this social support is – and how it can even improve our life expectancy.
New research, published in the journal Jama Network Open, shows that surrounding yourself with friends and family who actively listen to you when you’re venting can help build cognitive resilience.
Simply put, cognitive resilience refers to someone’s ability to retain their mental sharpness as they age.
This means Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias – or disorders that affect brain function, mental processes and memory – are often linked to low cognitive resilience.
So the next time a pal asks if they can vent, be sure to listen to them – because you might be helping them live longer.
The study asked 2,171 adults to document their levels of socialisation based on five types: listening, advice, love-affection, emotional support and sufficient contact.
Using a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine, researchers found participants who had more supportive listening (as a form of support) reported higher levels of cognitive resilience.
In other words, allowing friends to tell stories or vent while remaining totally in the moment is the best way to offer supportive listening. Giving advice or a response isn’t always needed – just being there is enough.
This study is particularly important as previous research has suggested preventative methods to combat Alzheimer’s, such as certain diets and regular brain exercises. But this recent one instead highlights the role of other factors, such as friendships.
So surrounding ourselves with friends who are good listeners can not only make us feel good, but can also help keep brains healthy and resilient.
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