Your social life may matter more than you think.

By Abigail Wise
Updated March 18, 2015
friends jumping happy outside
Credit: Trinette Reed/Getty Images

Your friends are good for more than movie marathons and boozy brunches. It turns out, you can probably thank them for helping you lead a healthier, happier life. Here, four ways your friends can make you a better version of you—according to science.

Your friends may inspire a healthier diet.

Dining with friends could affect what you eat. Eating is one way we develop social norms, according to a paper published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. So grabbing a bite to eat with some of your healthier pals could help you make healthier dining choices. “By this social identity account, if a person’s sense of self is strongly guided by their identity as a member of their local community and that community is perceived to eat healthily, then that person would be hypothesized to eat healthily in order to maintain a consistent sense of social identity,” lead researcher Eric Robinson told Runner's World.

But not only can friends influence what you eat, they may also affect how much you consume. Buddying up with healthy dining pals could help you resist overeating, a study published in Appetite​ suggests. And those habits may even stick when you eat without your friends.

Friends can make you better at your job.

Friends aren't only reserved for weekend plans and coffee dates. Forming social connections at work might make you more productive and better at your job. Researchers at California State University examined the connection between loneliness and work performance. The results suggested that lonely employees may show weaker performance and worse collaboration skills.

Another paper, by Gallup, examined more than 1 million employees, across 192 companies. In the end, companies that scored highest on employee engagement (one metric of which was "I have a best friend at work") also had higher success rates in other areas, including profitability and product quality. The bottom line? Social connections at work—whether it be with a friend of a similar position or a supportive, encouraging boss—can mean improved performance.

Partnering up with a workout buddy could inspire you to get active.

Want a better workout? Grab an athletic friend. Working out with someone you consider in-shape encourages you to push yourself harder, according to one small study published in the Journal of Social Sciences. This might be one reason for the 28 percent rise in group fitness classes and the growth in small-group training, which has nearly doubled since 2007.

Friends also have the power to give you that extra push of motivation when you feel like skipping the gym. Even a virtually present pal can also up your cardio performance. So, if your workout partner bails, it may be worth it to give them a quick call or shoot over a text for some words of encouragement.

Your friends could help you live longer.

Spending less time alone is one key to living a long life, according to a new study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science. “With loneliness on the rise, we are predicting a possible loneliness epidemic in the future,” Tim Smith, co-author of the study, said in a statement.

The paper analyzed results from more than 3 million participants, spanning over multiple studies. After taking into account variables, such as age, gender, and pre-existing health conditions, researchers concluded that less social people had higher health risks. Luckily, they also found that more social people tended to live longer. “In essence, the study is saying the more positive psychology we have in our world, the better we’re able to function, not just emotionally but physically,” Smith said.