Having Friends May Be a Stronger Painkiller Than Morphine, Study Finds
Hugs, not drugs — specifically hugs from your friends because friends are the most effective antidote to physical pain, according to science. A recent study by researchers at Oxford University suggested the more friends a person has, the more hurt-tolerant they are.
"We often hear in the news about how to improve our physical and mental health, but I think we should really think of health more as a triad that also includes our social health," Katerina Johnson, lead author of the study and an Oxford doctoral student, told Time.
Johnson and Robin I.M. Dunbar looked at 101 "healthy young adults," who filled out a survey concerning their social connectedness, "personality, sociodemographics and lifestyle." Participants were then asked to perform the wall sit test, holding the acutely uncomfortable pose for as long as they could manage. It turned out that the people who were better able to withstand pain had more close friends — for the purposes of this experiment, people they contacted at least weekly or monthly.
According to the study, more friends means more endorphins — which are not only "our body's natural painkillers, ... they're actually stronger than morphine," Johnson said. Endorphins bind to the brain's opioid receptors, triggering the happy feels we get when we see our friends' radiant, smiling faces. Broader social networks, then, are perhaps better at dulling bodily pain than are opioids.
What's noteworthy, at least for those of us who loathe exercise, is that fitness-focused individuals tended to have fewer pals — "perhaps because exercising ate up the time they'd instead spend with their friends," Time wrote. (Shade.)