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More Friends, Greater Well-Being at Midlife?
Date:8/23/2012

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Aug. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Having a wide circle of friends helps middle-aged men and women have a greater sense of well-being, according to new research.

A network of relatives is also important, they found, but only for men.

Study author Dr. Noriko Cable, a senior research fellow at the University College London, is not talking about Facebook-type friends. "Having more friends with whom we actually meet is important to our mental health," Cable said. "Not having friends at all is bad for our mental health. We need to treasure friends that we have."

The study, based on more than 6,500 British people born in 1958 and followed up at midlife, is published online Aug. 22 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The men and women were participants in the National Child Development Study, an ongoing study based in Great Britain. The information about friends, family and well-being was collected when the men and women were 42, 45 and 50 years old.

They told Cable and colleagues how many friends and relatives they met up with once a month or more. The researchers assessed their mental health at age 42, then asked them about their well-being at age 50, along with information on friends and family contacts.

One in seven said they had no contact with relatives besides their immediate family. About one in 10 said they had no friends.

However, four of 10 men and about one in three women said they had more than six friends whom they saw regularly.

Those numbers counted, Cable found. Compared to those who had 10 or more regular contacts, having fewer at age 45 was linked with poorer sense of well-being for both men and women.

The size of the relative network also influenced well-being, with larger networks boosting well-being, but this only held for men.

Not having a partner and staying in school after age 16 was linke
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