This is perhaps an obvious observation but it is easy to overlook the importance of our friendships in the day-to-day busyness of our lives. I know from my own experience that the day becomes a week and the week a month and before you know it you haven’t spoken to your best friends for six months or more.
And yet as these two extensive studies by Dr William Chopik and his team at Michigan State University demonstrates, friendships may actually be more important than family relationships. Valuing these relationships makes people happier and healthier and as we get older, relationships with friends can become more important for health and happiness than relationships with family members.
With age, friends can play a stronger role in predicting how long we will live than our families. It may be partly because we choose our friends and not our families (well, not most of them, anyway). Friends who have stood the test of time are particularly valuable.
Dr William Chopik, commented:
“Friendships become even more important as we age. Keeping a few really good friends around can make a world of difference for our health and wellbeing. So it’s smart to invest in the friendships that make you happiest.”
A first study surveyed 271,053 from almost 100 countries. This found both friends and family were linked to people’s happiness and health.
However, the benefits of friendship became stronger with age. Dr Chopik said:
“There are now a few studies starting to show just how important friendships can be for older adults. Summaries of these studies show that friendships predict day-to-day happiness more and ultimately how long we’ll live, more so than spousal and family relationships.”
A second study of 7,481 older adults found friendships could be both a significant source of strain as well as happiness. However, friends may help to fight against loneliness, Dr Chopik said:
“Friendships help us stave off loneliness but are often harder to maintain across the lifespan. If a friendship has survived the test of time, you know it must be a good one – a person you turn to for help and advice often and a person you wanted in your life.”