Click here to access > Friends at work - Toolkit

Watch Tyler's video here:  www.Imtyler.org  

Tyler is a typical high school student who happens to have cerebral palsy and some other challenges.  He has taken on a mission to educate the world about Ability Awareness.  He believes that what a person, any person, CAN do is much more important than what he/she can't.  The people in Tyler's life who have seen this and practiced Ability Awareness have made all the difference in the world to him.


INTRODUCTION TO FRIENDS

The Importance of Helping Establish and Sustain Relationships

Between People With and Without Disabilities

Friends: Connecting people with disabilities and community members - A manual (click here) 


Thank you Elizabeth Pell, LSCW at HSRI for the following -

Below please find some research findings regarding the impact of having friendships on one’s health. I sorted for research that is accessible – that lay people can understand and use. This information is not specific to people with disabilities but applicable to all people. 

Evidence shows having friendships is healthy!

WEB MD

Title: Good Friends Are Good for You

By Tom Valeo, WebMD Feature, Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

Excerpt: Good friends may help your life last longer. According to an Australian study by the Centre for Ageing Studies at Flinders University, 1,500 older people were studied for 10 years. Those who had a large network of friends outlived those with the fewest friends by 22%. Why? The authors opinion is that good friends discourage unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and heavy drinking. And the companionship provided by friends may ward off depression, boost self-esteem, and provide support. Also, as people age, they may become more selective in their choice of friends, so they spend more time with people they like.

Source: Web MD: http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/good-friends-are-good-for-you

Huffington Post

Title: Health Benefits Of Friends And Family: 8 Reasons Why It's Healthy To Spend Time With Loved Ones

By Amanda L. Chan Posted: 12/22/2012 10:15 pm EST  |  Updated: 12/23/2013 11:42 am EST

(Elizabeth’s note - The online article and slide show include evidence from 8 kinds of relationships. I did not include the family relationships below – just friendships.)

Big Social Networks Are Good For Your Health

Having many strong social ties could help you live a longer, healthier life, according to a study from Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers. The study showed that social ties' impact on longevity is actually the same as that which is seen between people who smoke and don't smoke, TIME reported. The study is based on the findings of 300,000 people who were included in 148 different studies, and was published in the journal PLoS Medicine.

Friends And Family Make A Difference In Your Healthy Habits

Your friends and family are highly influential when it comes to the kind of lifestyle you lead, according to a 2011 survey.   Blisstree.com reported that 36 percent of people say their nutrition is affected by influence from their friends and family. And 46 percent of people in the survey said that their loved ones make a difference in their overall healthy lifestyles.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/22/health-benefits-friends-family_n_2317696.html

New York Times

Title: What Are Friends For? A Longer Life

April 20, 2009, By TARA PARKER-POPE (Full article follows)

In the quest for better health, many people turn to doctors, self-help books or herbal supplements. But they overlook a powerful weapon that could help them fight illness and depression, speed recovery, slow aging and prolong life: their friends.

Skip to next paragraph Researchers are only now starting to pay attention to the importance of friendship and social networks in overall health. A 10-year Australian study found that older people with a large circle of friends were 22 percent less likely to die during the study period than those with fewer friends. A large 2007 study showed an increase of nearly 60 percent in the risk for obesity among people whose friends gained weight. And last year, Harvard researchers reported that strong social ties could promote brain health as we age.

“In general, the role of friendship in our lives isn’t terribly well appreciated,” said Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. “There is just scads of stuff on families and marriage, but very little on friendship. It baffles me. Friendship has a bigger impact on our psychological well-being than family relationships.”

In a new book, “The Girls From Ames: A Story of Women and a 40-Year Friendship” (Gotham), Jeffrey Zaslow tells the story of 11 childhood friends who scattered from Iowa to eight different states. Despite the distance, their friendships endured through college and marriage, divorce and other crises, including the death of one of the women in her 20s. Using scrapbooks, photo albums and the women’s own memories, Mr. Zaslow chronicles how their close friendships have shaped their lives and continue to sustain them. The role of friendship in their health and well-being is evident in almost every chapter. Two of the friends have recently learned they have breast cancer. Kelly Zwagerman, now a high school teacher who lives in Northfield, Minn., said that when she got her diagnosis in September 2007, her doctor told her to surround herself with loved ones. Instead, she reached out to her childhood friends, even though they lived far away.

“The first people I told were the women from Ames,” she said in an interview. “I e-mailed them. I immediately had e-mails and phone calls and messages of support. It was instant that the love poured in from all of them.”

When she complained that her treatment led to painful sores in her throat, an Ames girl sent a smoothie maker and recipes. Another, who had lost a daughter to leukemia, sent Ms. Zwagerman a hand-knitted hat, knowing her head would be cold without hair; still another sent pajamas made of special fabric to help cope with night sweats. Ms. Zwagerman said she was often more comfortable discussing her illness with her girlfriends than with her doctor. “We go so far back that these women will talk about anything,” she said.

Ms. Zwagerman says her friends from Ames have been an essential factor in her treatment and recovery, and research bears her out. In 2006, a study of nearly 3,000 nurses with breast cancer found that women without close friends were four times as likely to die from the disease as women with 10 or more friends. And notably, proximity and the amount of contact with a friend wasn’t associated with survival. Just having friends was protective.

Bella DePaulo, a visiting psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, whose work focuses on single people and friendships, notes that in many studies, friendship has an even greater effect on health than a spouse or family member. In the study of nurses with breast cancer, having a spouse wasn’t associated with survival.

While many friendship studies focus on the intense relationships of women, some research shows that men can benefit, too. In a six-year study of 736 middle-age Swedish men, attachment to a single person didn’t appear to affect the risk of heart attack and fatal coronary heart disease, but having friendships did. Only smoking was as important a risk factor as lack of social support.

Exactly why friendship has such a big effect isn’t entirely clear. While friends can run errands and pick up medicine for a sick person, the benefits go well beyond physical assistance; indeed, proximity does not seem to be a factor.

It may be that people with strong social ties also have better access to health services and care. Beyond that, however, friendship clearly has a profound psychological effect. People with strong friendships are less likely than others to get colds, perhaps because they have lower stress levels.

Last year, researchers studied 34 students at the University of Virginia, taking them to the base of a steep hill and fitting them with a weighted backpack. They were then asked to estimate the steepness of the hill. Some participants stood next to friends during the exercise, while others were alone.

The students who stood with friends gave lower estimates of the steepness of the hill. And the longer the friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared.

“People with stronger friendship networks feel like there is someone they can turn to,” said Karen A. Roberto, director of the center for gerontology at Virginia Tech. “Friendship is an undervalued resource. The consistent message of these studies is that friends make your life better.”

Source: NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/21/health/21well.html?_r=0    

Harvard Medical School-Health Publication

Title: The Health Benefits of Strong Relationships, December 2010  (Full article follows)

Good connections can improve health and increase longevity.

For many of us, the holidays mean family gatherings, getting together with friends, and participating in special religious, community, and workplace activities. Such occasions are an opportunity to check in with each other, exchange ideas, and perhaps lend a supportive ear or shoulder.

Social connections like these not only give us pleasure, they also influence our long-term health in ways every bit as powerful as adequate sleep, a good diet, and not smoking. Dozens of studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends, and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer.

Conversely, a relative lack of social ties is associated with depression and later-life cognitive decline, as well as with increased mortality. One study, which examined data from more than 309,000 people, found that lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50% — an effect on mortality risk roughly comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and greater than obesity and physical inactivity.

What makes social connections healthful

Scientists are investigating the biological and behavioral factors that account for the health benefits of connecting with others. For example, they've found that it helps relieve harmful levels of stress, which can adversely affect coronary arteries, gut function, insulin regulation, and the immune system. Another line of research suggests that caring behaviors trigger the release of stress-reducing hormones.

Research has also identified a range of activities that qualify as social support, from offers of help or advice to expressions of affection. In addition, evidence suggests that the life-enhancing effects of social support extend to giver as well as to receiver.

All of this is encouraging news because caring involvement with others may be one of the easiest health strategies to access. It's inexpensive, it requires no special equipment or regimen, and we can engage in it in many ways.

What counts

The quality of our relationships matters. For example, one study found that midlife women who were in highly satisfying marriages and marital-type relationships had a lower risk for cardiovascular disease compared with those in less satisfying marriages. Other studies have linked disappointing or negative interactions with family and friends with poorer health. One intriguing line of research has found signs of reduced immunity in couples during especially hostile marital spats.

Having a network of important relationships can also make a difference. A large Swedish study of people ages 75 and over concluded that dementia risk was lowest in those with a variety of satisfying contacts with friends and relatives.

Source:http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Womens_Health_Watch/2010/December/the-health-benefits-of-strong-relationships

Mayo Clinic

Title: Friendships: Enrich your life and improve your health

By Mayo Clinic Staff

What are the benefits of friendships?

Good friends are good for your health. Friends prevent loneliness and give you a chance to offer needed companionship, too. Friends can also:

  • Increase your sense of belonging and purpose
  • Boost your happiness and reduce your stress
  • Improve your self-confidence and self-worth
  • Help you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one
  • Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise

Why is it sometimes hard to make friends or maintain friendships?

Developing and maintaining good friendships takes effort. The enjoyment and comfort friendship can provide, however, makes the investment worthwhile.

What's a healthy number of friends?

Quality counts more than quantity. While it's good to cultivate a diverse network of friends and acquaintances, you also want to nurture a few truly close friends who will be there for you through thick and thin.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/adult-health/in-depth/friendships/art-20044860

Science

(Journal publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science)

Title: Social Relationships and Health

By James House, Karl Landis, Debra Umberson, published July 29, 1988, Volume 241, pages 540-545

(Elizabeth’s note: This is a scientific overview of the literature at the time. But I’ve excerpted the opening paragraph below because, although dense, the summarized findings are compelling.)

“Scientists have long noted an association between social relationships and health. More socially isolated or less socially isolated individuals are less healthy, psychologically and physically, and more likely to die. The first major work of empirical sociology found that less socially integrated people were more likely to commit suicide than the most integrated. In subsequent epidemiological research adjusted mortality rates from all causes of death are consistently higher among the unmarried than the married. Unmarried and more socially isolated people have also manifested higher rates of tuberculosis, accidents, and psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. …. clinicians have also observed potentially health-enhancing qualities of social relationships and contacts.”