Feb. 1 kicks off American Heart Month with National Wear Red Day, a day designed to raise awareness about heart disease and its impact on women’s health. The CDC reports that heart disease causes one in every four female deaths, making it the number one killer of women.
Women with mental health or substance abuse issues have often isolated themselves from friends and family and in many instances lack the support of a close group of friends. There have been numerous studies about the effect of friendship on physical health. A Flinders University Study found that older people with large networks of friends outlived those with the fewest by 22 percent. A Swedish study found that having fewer friends increased the risk of heart attacks by 50 percent. And a study sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute surveyed 500 women and found that women with supportive social networks had lower rates of high blood pressure and diabetes.
Mental wellness and physical health are closely linked, and it is important to take care of the two together. The National Medical Association reports that social support is effective at relieving stress, a prevalent contributor to heart disease, inflammation and clogged arteries. Friendship is a key support element that benefits both mental and physical aspects of health by relieving stress while also encouraging confidence and happiness.
Mental health issues affect all aspects of life including friendship, which adds an additional level of danger to a woman’s physical health. Maintenance of healthy friendships is a crucial part of emotional and physical wellness following mental health treatment; friendship gives women a supportive outlet with which to share emotions and relieve stress. Supportive friendships help encourage healing from mental and physical ailments, and contribute to a whole and healthy life for all women.