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Study Reveals Having More Friends Increases Your Pain Tolerance Better Than Morphine

Apr 29, 2016 09:46 AM EDT
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NSYNC Member Joey Fatone And Friends Go Out In Taipei, Taiwan
A recent study shows that friends are better than morphine, as having a large social circle means having a higher tolerance for pain.
(Photo : Ashley Pon/Getty Images for Taiwan Tourism Bureau)

The more the merrier, indeed!

A recent study shows that friends are better than morphine, as having a large social circle means having a higher tolerance for pain.

The researchers from Oxford University claim that expanded social interactions increase the production of feel-good hormones in the brain called endorphins.

"One theory, known as 'the brain opioid theory of social attachment', is that social interactions trigger positive emotions when endorphins bind to opioid receptors in the brain," Daily Mail notes in an article.

According to the study published in Scientific Reports, the researchers examined 101 healthy young adults (aged between 18 and 34) by asking them anything that would be relevant to know more about their social circle. Basing on the fact that endorphin has a powerful pain-killing effect, researchers also used a non-invasive physical pain test as a way to assess the brain's endorphin activity.

Telegraph writes in an article that the test involved squatting against a wall with knees at a 90 degree angle with a straight back for as long as possible. 

They were also asked about their daily stress and their sociable-ness, and fitness. "One of the things we had to consider was that maybe fitter individuals are better in tests of muscular pain, so we took that into account in our analysis," Katerina Johnson, the paper's lead author and a doctoral student at the University of Oxford in the U.K told CTV news.

After assessment, they found out that those who have larger number of friends have higher tolerance for pain. The team also found that fitter people and those who reported high stress levels were likely to have smaller social networks.

"Endorphins are our body's natural painkillers, and they're actually stronger than morphine," Johnson said in a separate interview with TIME.

"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," she added.

"Our findings indicate that perhaps by enhancing our social health, and our feeling of connectedness to others, we might be better primed to deal with pain."

In addition, this study also explains why depressed people often suffer from a lack of pleasure and become socially withdrawn.

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