Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Lifelong friends chosen well ‘make us happier than family’

thelma louise.jpg

“I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light”

So said the redoubtable Helen Keller. And it seems she was spot-on, since a new study highlights that friends are a more important source of support than family to us – especially when the going gets tough.

In the survey of  280,000 people, researchers from Michigan State University found that friendships become increasingly valuable to our health and happiness as we progress through our lives.

Not only that, but they’re more influential to our well-being than family, possible because they are optional – so we get to edit out the friendships that don’t work for us over time, leaving only those that are the most valuable. 


Read more: The loneliness crisis – can you really make friends on an app?


The team analysed two sets of far-reaching data. The first looked at survey information about relationships and self-rated health and happiness from 271,053 participants of all ages from nearly 100 countries. It found friendships were especially vital to health and happiness at an advanced age.

The second study examined responses about relationship support/strain and chronic illness from 7,481 older adults in the United States. When friendships were a source of strain, participants reported more chronic illnesses. When friendships were thriving, they felt better overall.

Friends

News this lot knew all along...

“Friendships become even more important as we age,” says William Chopik, the assistant professor of psychology leading the study.

“Keeping a few really good friends around can make a world of difference for our health and well-being. So it’s smart to invest in the friendships that make you happiest.”

Chopik says the way we choose our friends over a lifetime means that – if we make wise decisions – we’re left with the people who support us the most (having discarded the rest).

These individuals provide key support for those who don’t have spouses, who’ve experienced bereavement or who simply don’t turn to their family in times of need.


Read more: How to navigate the politics of friendship


While friendships are typically associated with moments of relief, families can also be the root of more serious, monotonous or negative interactions. 

“There are now a few studies starting to show just how important friendships can be for older adults,” says Chopik. “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.

“Friendships help us stave off loneliness but are often harder to maintain across the lifespan,” he adds. “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.”

Photos: Rex

Related

cher the musical.jpg

Crack out the bodysuits because Cher: The Musical is happening

rexfeatures_5885874x.jpg

Why you should cherish your frenemies, according to science

richard angell.JPG

‘If gin and flirting is what offends attackers I'll do it more’

More

The Netflix shows you’re most likely to devour in 24 hours

You, my friend, are a ‘binge racer’

by Nicola Colyer
18 Oct 2017

There’s a psychological reason you’re in love with Starbucks’ red cups

It’s not just because Christmas is coming

by Gemma Crisp
18 Oct 2017

Have a wonderfully macabre Christmas with this anti-advent calendar

Bah humbug

by Megan Murray
18 Oct 2017

Nigella Lawson says this is the next big food trend

Will this steal avocado’s crown?

by Nicola Colyer
18 Oct 2017

Men are supporting the #MeToo campaign by tweeting #HowIWillChange

“Guys, it’s our turn.”

by Moya Crockett
18 Oct 2017

The new sanitary towel advert finally showing RED period blood

Because what runs down your leg in the shower ain’t blue

by Amy Swales
18 Oct 2017

“France banning wolf-whistling is a good start – but it’s not enough”

We can’t kid ourselves that this kind of gesture will change women’s lives.

by Moya Crockett
18 Oct 2017

The UK's first permanent avocado restaurant is coming to London

It’s everything we avo wanted

by Megan Murray
18 Oct 2017

We really need to talk about what happened on Bake Off

We’re going to need a moment to process this

by Amy Swales
18 Oct 2017

Get free tickets to see Call Me By Your Name

17 Oct 2017