National Call A Friend Day: Why Social Connection Is Mental Health Self-Care

Medically reviewed by Nikki Ciletti, M.Ed, LPC
Updated April 30, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. Support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

National Call a Friend Day falls on December 28, right in the middle of the holiday season for many Americans. It may prompt you to pause amid an often hectic and stressful time of year to connect with people you may not have seen in a while. This could be more than just advice for maintaining a healthy social life; nurturing meaningful bonds with friends may benefit your well-being in tangible ways.

People with more social connections, especially close friendships, may be less prone to certain kinds of mental illnesses and health risks. Yet surveys suggest the amount of social interaction in America is declining. National Call a Friend Day can remind us to reach out to the people who enrich our lives so that we can stay connected. If you struggle with loneliness, social anxiety, or other mental health challenges, consider reaching out to a licensed therapist online or in person.

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Therapy can help with loneliness and social anxiety

How friendship can influence health and happiness

The benefits of friendship may extend well beyond the short-term enjoyment of spending time together. A 2023 review of the psychological literature noted that adult friendships usually show significant links with several measures of overall well-being, including the following:

  • Greater happiness
  • More resilience in the face of stress
  • Stronger sense of purpose
  • Greater life satisfaction
  • Improvements in other significant relationships
In national surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center, more than 60% of Americans listed close friendships among the most important factors in living a fulfilling life. In general, this was a more common response than many other common yardsticks of life success, such as wealth or marriage.

Friendship and mental health

The positive emotions, relationship skills, and resilience that friendship enables may translate into better psychological health. For example, a longitudinal study found that high-quality connections with friends typically had a significant protective effect against depressive symptoms and suicide attempts.

Maintaining friendships may be beneficial throughout an individual’s lifespan. Studies suggest that older adults with few close friends may have a higher risk for loneliness, stress, anxiety, and depression.

Physical health benefits of friendship

There are often strong interactions between mental and physical health, and the positive effects of social connections may extend to your physical well-being. The American Psychological Association notes that a lack of close friendships may be an even more significant risk factor for early mortality than chronic smoking. 

One potential explanation is that having close friends may help people respond better to stress, improving heart function. Loneliness has been linked with higher blood pressure and a greater risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Other studies have found long-term positive effects of social connectedness on obesity and hypertension.

People with stronger close friendships may also be more likely to engage in enriching, stimulating activities, indirectly leading to improved physical health. This could help explain the observation that social interactions appear to reduce the risk of dementia.

A mature woman with red glasses sits on the couch with her laptop in her lap and talks on her cellphone while smiling.

The case for taking the time to call a friend

Even people who recognize the importance of maintaining friendships may not call their friends very often. 

Digital technology can be said to have replaced phone calls for many people, particularly among younger people. Surveys suggest that texting has overtaken phone calls as the preferred mode of communication among teens. 

These patterns may be more prevalent in the younger generation, but the trend could be affecting adults, too. A 2023 poll found that almost 50% of American adults tend to text when they want to reach out, as opposed to 32% who call. Many other people stay in touch with old friends primarily through social media channels like Facebook and Instagram.

Yet there’s evidence that voice-based communication may be more impactful for maintaining a sense of closeness. A 2021 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that reaching out to an old friend via phone call, voice chat, or video chat generally had a stronger effect on social bonds than purely text-based contacts. However, many participants hesitated to call because they overestimated how awkward the interaction would feel.

These findings suggest that hearing another person’s voice may produce a feeling of human connection that can’t be replicated by a typed message. If your goal is to keep up strong bonds with the people you care about, giving them a call may be more effective than sending them a text.

Why National Call a Friend Day falls in December

The origins of National Call a Friend Day are unclear, but there may be a very good reason it takes place on December 28. 

Late December can be a time of celebration and togetherness, but for those who are isolated or unable to spend time with their families during the winter holidays, it may spark loneliness. Others may experience stress and pressure due to holiday-related expectations. These factors may be exacerbated by seasonal affective disorder (SAD) resulting from the shorter daylight hours. 

This suggests that a phone call to someone you care about might have an even more positive impact than usual on or around National Call a Friend Day. National surveys from mental health organizations have found that many people with mental health conditions report an increase in symptom severity during the winter holidays. Reaching out to a friend could mean giving a sense of connection and comfort to someone who’s feeling lonely or depressed. 

How to celebrate National Call a Friend Day

Here are a few suggestions for ways you could observe this holiday.

Call one friend

The simplest way to honor National Call a Friend Day might be to pick up the phone and call someone you haven’t talked to in a long time. Chatting with even a single good friend who you wouldn’t have otherwise called could have a significant positive effect.

Many people may be unsure about who to connect with first. Instead of overthinking this decision, you can try asking yourself, “Who’s a good friend I haven’t talked to in a while?” Then, call the first name that pops into your head.

Start a calling chain reaction

National Call a Friend Day might also be a good opportunity to start making a regular habit of checking in with the people you care about. Since it’s right before New Year’s, you could even form a resolution to call one person each week (or every day if you’re feeling ambitious). 

One fun way to do this could be to follow the links between your friends. When you have your first conversation with someone you haven’t heard from in a while, there’s a good chance you may find yourselves reminiscing about mutual friends’ lives. You can choose one of them as the next person to call. 

When you talk with the mutual friend you’ve picked, you can repeat this process, seeing how long you can keep the chain going. You can make it into a game and have fun connecting the dots between the people you know, reminiscing about the times when different friend groups have spent time together. In time, you may be able to work your way through your whole social network and start again.

Have a party themed around National Call A Friend Day

If you want to go all-out celebrating this holiday, you could get a few people together and take turns choosing mutual friends to call. When they pick up, you can put them on speakerphone and have everyone say hello

You could even invent games to go along with this, such as trying to guess what each person will be doing when they answer. The classic party game “Telephone” could take on a new significance for a National Call a Friend Day party.

Modern technology may offer lots of ways to expand the celebration. You could open a group video call and try to loop in more and more friends or encourage the people you call to ring up friends of their own on separate devices. 

Support a charity that helps with loneliness and mental health

A woman in a beaning holds a cup of to go coffee in one hand and her phone in the other while talking on the phone and smiling as she walks down the sidewalk.
Therapy can help with loneliness and social anxiety

Some people may have few or no close friends to reach out to in times of need. National Call a Friend Day could be a good time to donate to or volunteer for a nonprofit that provides connection, support, and encouragement to those who feel isolated. Possible examples include:

Seeking support

For some people, challenges like social anxiety and depression may get in the way of maintaining social relationships. If this is the case for you, working with a licensed mental health professional may enable you to get to the root of the issue and address it accordingly.

If in-person sessions seem daunting or inconvenient, you might consider trying online therapy. An online therapy platform generally enables you to connect with a therapist via video, phone, or online chat at a time that fits your schedule and from the location of your choice.

According to a 2022 study, online cognitive behavioral therapy for social anxiety can significantly reduce social anxiety symptoms. Additional research supports the notion that online and in-office therapy tend to produce the same client outcomes.


Friendship can have far-reaching benefits for health and well-being, and talking to a friend over the phone may be an effective way of strengthening your connection. National Call a Friend Day might be a good time to shore up a friendship by letting someone know how important they are to you. If mental health challenges prevent you from making and maintaining connections with others, consider seeking professional support through in-person or online.
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