Hold onto your friends
By: Francisco J. Dueñas
The British singer songwriter Morrissey has a particularly wise song whose advice we should be following. It’s called “Hold Onto Your Friends.” It’s a simple and sincere song. There just might come a time When you need some friends. Today, we are learning more and more that as we get older this song is truly a recipe for wellbeing and a long life.
Loneliness is killing us. And I don’t mean metaphorically. Public health authorities have claimed that isolation is the most widespread health issue in the US. Unfortunately, those that are more socially isolated have higher risks for heart disease, strokes and Alzheimers. And thus, they die younger.
It’s not that we can’t make or don’t have friends or that we are misanthropes, it’s just that as life responsibilities grow– be it your partner, work or family—they take up greater increasing quantities of our time. And friends are relegated, more and more, to social media interactions and annual rites like birthday celebrations, if that. Little by little our friendships lapse, until you recall you haven’t hung out with your friends in a long time. According to studies, this happens more commonly with men than women, but your age may also be an independent factor.
We all know adolescence is difficult. Besides the external risks and dangers that come with being an LGBT youth, our youth ego may agonize over being different and take it as a sign of being inferior or ill-fated. That’s why it’s important LGBT youth have support not just in schools but at home too. Adolescence is a time full of life transitions, social and an emotional, and more if you are LGBT.
But it’s not the only period in our lives that may be disconcerting. Your 40s may also be a period of great unhappiness. Some sort of ‘midlife slum’ is being experienced across the world in different cultures, irrespective of health and wealth. Nothing satisfies you and you can’t appreciate what you do have with gratitude. Just like during adolescence, perhaps during our 40s our minds and bodies are being reoriented, preparing us for a new trajectory. The important thing is to know this phenomenon exists, and that you are not alone.
The good news, for all of this, is that after age 50 satisfaction returns and you are able to recover peace and gratitude. This is why it’s so important to maintain those bonds of friendship. Life will present us with highs and lows, many times outside of our control, but the counsel and relief of good friends is worth the effort and sweetens our lives. Like Morrissey says, don’t feel so ashamed to have friends.
For more information, see:
The biggest threat facing middle-age men isn’t smoking or obesity. It’s loneliness. by Billy Baker, March 09, 2017. Boston Globe Magazine; How to avoid the ‘midlife slump’ and make your 40s a much happier decade by Jonathan Rauch, May 27, 2018. Los Angeles Times